MISSOURI – The Muslim community in Missouri hosted on Sunday, October 15, the Great Muslim Food fest, offering non-Muslims a chance to know their Muslim neighbors by speaking “the international language of food.”
“We all know that people across the world have come together and broken bread as a way to get to know each other,” Faizan Syed, the executive director of Council on American-Islam Relations of Missouri, or CAIR-MO, told Columbia Missourian.
“Today, we live in a country where misconceptions and hatred of Islam and Muslims is at an all-time high, which is what inspired us to hold the Great Muslim Food Fest.”
The event was co-hosted by the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, MU’s Muslim Student Organization and the Council on American-Islam Relations of Missouri, a nonprofit civil rights and advocacy group.
Welcoming visitors to the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, Adam Mefrakis gave them a tour and spoke about common misconceptions about Islam.
The event included a variety of speeches from different leaders in Missouri’s Muslim community, face painting, and henna, tours of the mosque and informational booths to peruse.
The Islamic Center served rice and chicken, falafel, baklava and pumpkin pie, among other snacks.
Syed said that in a country so divided, people need more opportunities to be introduced to the people who live right next door.
“For all faiths, all backgrounds, all traditions to know and learn about each other, what better way than today, where we’re breaking bread, or I guess we’re breaking naan,” he said.
Language of Food
Sunday’s Great Muslim Food Festival was planned to establish peace in the community.
“As Muslims, our first responsibility is to establish peace with each other, with you, with your neighbors, with your friends and colleagues” Rashed Nizam, a speaker at the event, said to the crowd.
“That’s why I say peace be upon you.”
He said that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), instructed Muslims to feed and care for the community.
“I know most of you are hungry, so that’s what we’re doing, we’re actually following our prophet. He didn’t say hungry Muslim, hungry Christian, hungry Jewish, hungry man, hungry woman, hungry orphan, no. He said where man is hungry, feed them.”
Aathif Shamail, the event coordinator for CAIR-MO, came to America three years ago.
“I’ve gotten to speak to a lot of people here, and I’m glad I got to expose them to our side of Islam,” he said. “It’s the sharing of ideas, which I think is beautiful.”
“I think awareness is important,” Shamail added.
“We also should focus on places where there are no Muslims, like the country. They don’t get exposed to Muslims or Islam, and then they believe what they see on the TV. So we hope to have events like this there so there can be more interactions with Muslims.”
Shakir Hamoodi, another speaker, praised the festival as a success, adding that they may do it once or twice a year from now on.
“This house behind me here is called the house of Allah, and what we teach in it, we teach the word of Allah as it was revealed in the mighty Qur’an,” Hamoodi said to the crowd.
“Hopefully we get to do this experiment again next semester. We see it as a very successful experiment.”