(IslamOnline.net) - ISNA Officials recognized Saturday, August 30, an Italian American Islamic studies Professor to be the current "Abu Taleb of Islam" and the Muslim community not only in North America but also worldwide.
In appreciation of his long time support and advocacy of the true essence of Islamic values, lending countless effort towards dispelling myths about Muslim societies and cultures, Dr. Sayyid Syeed, Secretary General of the ISNA compared the role of Professor John L. Esposito, of Georgetown University, to that of Abu Taleb, the Prophet's uncle who gave unconditional support to the Muslim community at a time when it was weak and oppressed.
"John has provided a powerful example of Abu Taleb of the twenty-first Century," said Dr. Syeed as he introduced the Keynote speaker of the Convention's Community Recognition Luncheon.
Esposito, founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, has written and lectured extensively on Islam and Muslims and is considered one of few Western thinkers to understand and speak about the Islamic civilization with an insider's comprehension of its historical development.
Speaking to almost 800 guests filling the Grand Ball room of the McCormick Hyatt hotel, Esposito advised the Muslim community on the necessity of transforming their current challenges into opportunities.
He said that despite the setbacks of 9/11 - manifested in increasing waves of discrimination and hate crimes - the community should be able to make use of the present situation and move beyond playing the victim's role.
He added that the time has passed for Muslims to keep blaming all the ills of the Muslim World on the colonization period and imperialism, saying that the experiences of the American Jews in the U.S. and other minorities should be educational examples on how to overcome challenges.
"Unite and cooperate: still not done enough. When you are under siege, there is no time to split," he said.
He warned of what he called the "Muslim Coach Potato" syndrome, where some Muslims are content with playing the role of the commentators rather than activists.
"One would talk about the issues of Palestine, Iraq or any other distressed part of the Muslim world over dinner, only to go home and feel good about it," he said.
Delivering his message in quick, energizing tone, Esposito remarked that this is the time of Jihad for faith and value. "A time to empower the next generation, and the way is to focus on education, to engage in a process of Islah (Reform) and Tajdeed (Renewal).
"It is a process of emphasizing faith and value, emphasizing non violence over violence. It is a struggle of faith and knowledge, a never ending struggle supported by faith," he added.
Esposito was also recognized for his effort in understanding Islam and promotion of inter-civilization dialogue.
Each year it has been a tradition at the ISNA convention to recognize long time leaders of the community who played a major role in establishing or supporting Muslim communities in North America.
This year, which marks 40 years in the life of the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada that later evolved into ISNA, Dr. Ahmad H. Sakr was selected to be recipient of the Community Service Recognition Award for his continuous contribution to the Muslim community world wide.
Dr. Sakr, who could not attend the award ceremony, was an early founder of the MSA; he served in many academic positions including being the Acting President of the American Islamic College in Chicago, Illinois. He was also a founding member of the World Council of Mosques based in Makkah, Saudi Arabia and was the first representative of Muslim World League to the United Nations.
He is currently President of the Foundation for Islamic Knowledge, and Director of Islamic Education Center in Walnut, California.
A segment of the Luncheon was dedicated to a call for raising funds to help the umbrella organization further fulfill its mission in serving North American Muslims.