Billed as "Canada's largest Muslim convention," Reviving the Islamic Spirit – 8th Convention was held in Toronto on December 25 – 27, 2009. Having heard the reports that 17,000 attendees from Canada and the U.S. were expected, I decided to see for myself. I also wanted to know if the convention would stress spirituality, promote moderate Islam, or offer apologias for radical Islam.
The lecture hall, with a capacity of 6,500 people, was completely full and there were still many people outside. The sales area contained around 50 booths selling Islamic clothing and books. I looked for books by reformers such as Salim Mansur, Tarek Fatah, Irshad Manji, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to no avail. Similarly, none of the speakers I heard addressed the violence of radical Islam. This gross omission about something so current and important was telling.
While waiting for another session to begin, I caught the tail end of a speech by Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute titled, "The Social Implications of Domestic Violence." Shakir did not defend the oppressive practices that are pervasive in the Muslim world, but claimed that Islam does not approve of molesting wives and children. Instead, Shakir alleged, it was merely the fault of uncontrolled anger. He urged the community for help and understanding with these anger-related problems. There was no discussion of universal women's human rights or the actual treatment of women in Islamic countries.
Perhaps as some form of consolation to the women in the audience, Shakir promised that if a man beats his Muslim spouse, Allah might take his vengeance out on him. The crowd apparently found this humorous and laughter ensued.