Muslim festival dispels myths and celebrates community

wahabiMalden was host to the first ever New England Muslim festival on Sunday, September 25. Official estimates report that close to 3,000 people attended the vibrant family event from noon – 6 p.m. A dazzling array of hijabs wove strands of color throughout the crowd on Malden City Hall Plaza.

The stage featured hip hop artists, comedians, traditional music, folk dances, Chinese martial arts, speeches and the Muslim call to prayer. A traditional souk (marketplace) boasted a wide array of arts, henna, Arabic calligraphy, local information and international foods. There was even a booth where non-Muslims could try on a hijab (Muslim headcovering).

According to the organizers, the vision of the Muslim Festival was to celebrate the diversity within the American Muslim community and to create a greater awareness of their rich cultural heritage.

“In the midst of the election season, terrorist attacks in Europe and instability in the Middle East,” says festival director Mohammad Shadid, “the Muslims in the United States and in particular in New England believe that their culture and image have been distorted by politicians and the terrorists who do not represent the faith of the millions of Muslims worldwide.”

(Story continues after photos below, which can be viewed as a slideshow)

“We are so overwhelmed with joy to have this kind of a crowd and to feel the love from people,” says Sister Wafaa Wahabi, another organizer of the event. “It makes us feel that people do care about Muslims.”

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson was pleased to host the event in Malden, which was selected as a site not only because of its central location but because of its extraordinarily diverse community. The Outreach Community and Reform Center, a spiritual home and community center for Muslims located in Malden, was one of the many organizers of the event.

The video (posted below) shows the positive energy of the event and the passion of its organizers that want so much to change the negative image of Islam in American culture.

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Anne D'Urso-Rose is the Associate Director at Urban Media Arts in Malden. She is the coordinator and a contributing journalist for Neighborhood View.

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