Prominent educationists, community, faith and civic leaders as well as law enforcement officials of South Carolina, came together under one roof in a two day Summit Conference at Columbia Metropolitan Conference Center from June 12 to 13, 2017. Organized by the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, this was the second annual summit conference after the inaugural event in 2016.
The two day Summit had a packed schedule comprising of four plenary sessions and dozens of concurrent sessions dealing with a variety of topics of high value to schools, communities and law enforcement. Besides, there were special student sessions termed as 'Student Ambassador Training' spread over two days where selected students were given an opportunity to listen to top experts in their spheres of excellence.
Chaudry Sadiq, PICNA President, addressed three sessions at the summit. Speaking to a packed hall at a plenary session as part of a panel of faith and community leaders, Chaudhry recalled an historic event he had organized in May 2009 as President of CAIR South Carolina at this very location. The twin event - a Diversity Exhibition and a Banquet - were so successful that the State Newspaper published an article in their Metro section the next day, entitled "City Rolls out Mat for Muslims". Chaudhry termed that event as a golden chapter in Muslim-Non-Muslim relations in South Carolina. He expressed the need and desire to continue to build these relations, especially in the face of the current challenges.
Addressing another session, attended mainly by law enforcement officials, Chaudhry Sadiq made his presentation 'Understanding Islam and Muslims', dealing with essentials of Islam as well as complex issues such as terrorism and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. The audience of this session that had highest attendance among all concurrent sessions, showed keen interest in the presentation as evidenced by the tough questions they asked the speaker.
The final session addressed by PICNA President was with young students that proved to be very meaningful and unique in many ways. Briefing young students on Islam and Muslims was an amazing experience. Just one response from a ten year old left Chaudhry wondering. When asked how one could identify Muslims, the young man, who otherwise seemed inattentive and in a playful mood, replied : "through their inner selves"! What a deep and thought provoking answer to a complex question!