SAINT CLOUD – A Muslim couple has invited their friends and neighbors to dine and dialogue in their home in St. Cloud, Central Minnesota, in an event created to bridge differences in the community.
“Sharing a meal to promote understanding is a practice as old as humanity itself,” local author and educator Hudda Ibrahim told SC Times on Sunday, August 27.
Hudda Ibrahim hosted “Dine and Dialogue with a Muslim Neighbor” with her fiancé, Abdi Mahad, in their north St. Cloud apartment building Saturday.
The apartment was filled with Somali and non-Somali friends, neighbors, some of Ibrahim’s current and former students from St. Cloud Technical and Community College, and even Mayor Dave Kleis.
Sharing Sambusas, rice, berries, and fruit, around 65 attendants enjoyed Somali food, some for the first time.
The group also shared one giant sheet cake, which carried the slogan of the event.
Ibrahim and Mahad said they have been noticing the gap and fear between cultures in Central Minnesota more and more in recent months.
“So we decided to host this dinner to bridge that gap and create an environment where understanding, empathy, love, laughter and humor blossom,” she said.
Most importantly, they encouraged people to ask questions to counter stereotypes and correct misconceptions.
“Come to us. Talk to us. Ask us any burning question,” Ibrahim said. “We are more than willing to answer them.”
“I hate Minnesota Nice sometimes,” Mahad said, adding that people sometimes choose to say nothing because they’re worried they’ll say the wrong thing.
“We don’t have to agree over everything,” he added, confirming that despite differences, he still shows love and respect to everybody.
“Both the Bible and Quran mention ‘to love your neighbor as yourself,'” he said.
“If we hold on to our principles of love, respect, and empathy, we can learn to humanize the other.”
The couple hopes to do more dinners like this, and hope the idea spreads to other families and homes.
“We can have a different faith, but we need to celebrate and embrace our diversity,” Ibrahim said.
“I don’t think diversity is weakness. It’s our strength.”