MEMPHIS – In a bid to foster and strengthen the relationships between the diverse communities of Memphis, American Muslims organized a special festival on Saturday, March 25, which introduced Islam and Muslim culture to the public.
The event lets people learn about Islam in an open and less stressful environment, Nabil A. Bayakly, an event organizer and co-founder of the Muslim in Memphis, told The Commercial Appeal, part of USA Today.
“And also to share our religion and our tradition and heritage so that people will know we are just other humans from diverse backgrounds,” Bayakly added.
The MusliMeMfest was held on Saturday at the Agricenter International in Memphis.
During the festival, Bayakly told the public that Muslims have been in America since Christopher Columbus.
“Two of the ship’s captains were Moors. Moors are Muslims. And through the slave trade, they were Muslims,” Bayakly said.
“We’ve been here, but because we’re so reserved in our practices, people think that we just came since Sept. 11. We were here before the United States of America.”
Along with diverse cuisines offering food to the visitors, Walid Awad, camp master for Pack 220 Muslim Cub Scouts, had a table at the festival to let the Muslim community know about scouting.
“Here you have much more resources and help and training and different activities, but the values are still the same,” Awad said.
Moreover, the event offered a chance to educate the public about the contributions Muslims have made in the world, in architecture and inventing algebra in the 9th century. The camera and one of the first flying machines.
The event was informative to many visitors, including Neve Valentine, 18 and Connar Foote, 19, both college students who became friends at Arlington High School.
“Because it’s important to understand other people’s cultures, I think,” Valentine said about reasons behind visiting the festival.
“In a time with so much global tension and hostility, it’s very important to understand others,” Foote said.
“That’s the only way you can bridge the gap.”
This attitude was the main thought Angie Odeh, festival media coordinator, had when first planning the event.
“There’s so much information out there that lumps us with who we are not,” Odeh said.
“So while there are things that are done by people who say they are Muslim, we don’t claim any association. As a matter of fact we say you are wrong, you are false, you are not part of our religion.”