On Saturday, July 4th, IIIT organized a well-attended session entitled “A Call for Unity: Addressing the Shia Sunni Divide”. The session – that attracted large numbers of convention attendees - included prominent experts such as Professor Mahmoud Ayoub, Professor, Muzammil Siddiqi, and Dr. Jamal barzinji and was moderated by Dr. Hisham Altalib. The purpose of the session was to educate the Muslim community about the common grounds in beliefs, rituals and jurisprudence between the Shia and Sunni schools and explain the current challenges facing the Umma , particularly as far as the Shia Sunni divide is concerned. and discuss how to immunize the Muslim community against sectarian divisions.
Professor Mahmoud Ayoub provided a background on the evolution of the Shia Sunni divide and traced its history to the early Muslim community. He pointed out the similarities and differences in beliefs and in rituals and how they impacted relations between the two communities and called for an ethic of respect and a spirit of brotherhood that would provide the grounds and the foundation for Muslim unity.
Professor Muzammil Siddiqi elaborated on the historical evolution and the political implications of the two concepts of IMAMA and KHILAFA on the two communities. He described the historical circumstances that led to their evolution as two defining concepts of Shia Sunni relations.
Dr. Jamal Barzinji focused on the Qura’nic foundations of unity and invoked the verses that call upon members of the Community of Muslims to unite. He drew lessons from the history of sectarianism and how it was exploited by the enemies of Islam throughout the centuries and by power thirsty groups and tyrants within the Muslim community itself. He pointed out to recent efforts in the US to immunize the Muslim community against sectarian divisions and called for more systematic efforts to fight sectarianism at all levels, but particularly at th level of local communities through education, training of Imams and cooperation in civic and political engagement work.
Beside the panel on Shia Sunni divide, IIIT organized a hospitality suite that attracted dozens of scholars, community leaders and other conference attendees and provided them with an opportunity to meet top IIIT leaders, learn about IIIT, its history, its vision, its current activities and future plans. In addition to a newly produced video about IIIT, the suite featured a display of IIIT books and other publications. Several meetings with prominent Muslim community leaders were held, including a meeting with Dr. Ingrid Mattson, current ISNA President.
In addition to these new features, IIIT continued its tradition of the book sale booth that provided convention visitors with opportunity of getting acquainted with the most recent IIIT publications.