CLARKE COUNTY – The American citizens of Athens, Georgia, had the chance to know more about Islam when Al Huda Islamic Center opened its doors last Saturday, February 24, showcasing different cultures of the Islamic World.
“I think that in the climate we are in right now this is incredibly important,” Lamarana Balde, a secretary at the center told Flag Pole in an interview Wednesday, February 28.
“If we Muslims aren’t showing people who we are, other third parties do it. Islam is about friendship; not what people see on TV.”
The event allowed visitors to try traditional Middle Eastern and South Asian dishes like baklava, samosa, pakora, and basbousa, ask questions about and take home a Qur’an, and tour the mosque.
Volunteers of all ages waited in a tent to assist women with trying on hijabs or painting the temporary tattoos henna on their hands. There was also a station for kids’ activities, like balloon animal-making and face painting.
“We are so happy to see questions and the numbers present here today,” Balde said. “It shows us how we can improve our relationship with this Athens community.”
Furthermore, the presenter Amin Tomeh gave an overview of Islam and what it’s like to be an American Muslim to a crowd of 50 barefoot people.
He discussed various stereotypes held about the beliefs of the religion and explained that often one should “separate what is believed by the culture of a country from the beliefs of the actual religion that residents practice.”
Questions were encouraged and abundant, and the intended 30-minute presentation turned into an hour-and-a-half discussion.
Visitors expressed their happiness and gratitude for the welcoming organizers.
“This kind of event is important. Everyone was welcoming and so open to sharing. I learned so much from the presentation and it was great that Tomeh was so open to questions from everybody,” expressed Alexa Schaefer, a junior at the University of Georgia, who attended the event with six students from the UGA Catholic Center.
“I think it’s necessary for people to get to know the different communities in their city.”