CAIRO - Harmonizing Muslim culture and American summer traditions, an Islamic heritage festival in Pennsylvania has lured thousands of Muslims to celebrate unity and diversity.
"Muslims are just as much a part of American life as other cultural traditions," Abdul Rahim Muhammad, director of the Islamic Cultural Preservation and Information Council, told Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, June 09.This year's event celebrates "unity in diversity," he said while standing in front of a table displaying a propped-up Qur'an and pamphlets titled "Understanding Shari`ah" and "What Does Islam Say About Terrorism?"
Started 21 years ago, the Islamic Heritage Festival, the largest of its kind in the United States, was held on Saturday at Penn's Landing.
It attracts 5,000 to 8,000 visitors every year.
"We are citizens of this country," Muhammad said.
"We are not terrorists. And we have made significant contributions to this country."
The event was first established as a tradition of black Muslim bazaars.
Today, it draws a broader crowd, the diversity of offerings remains - from robes and wraps to books, perfume, and slogan-emblazoned T-shirts.
"The religion is actually all about unity, said Atiyya Hatcher who was selling sunglasses.
So when we come together like this, it's always happy times.
It also includes typical components for any American summer festival, with a clown painting painted children's faces, while girls, some wearing head scarves, jumped in a bouncy house.
A young female rap artist also played for attendants at the stage which also hosted an event recognizing those who had completed hajj this year.
Love For All
Organizers hope that the Islamic festival would send a message of love to all their neighbors.
"We're humans first," Hatcher said.
"As far as our being a religion, we're not different from the rest of the people."
Affected by media portrayal of Muslims, the theme seemed to dominate the minds of many at the festival, where proclamations of a desire for peace were prominent.
"Love for all, hatred for none," read one banner.
Saadiq Abdul Nasir, wearing a button that read "I [heart] Muhammad," said people unfairly associate American Muslims with incidents of terrorism.
Seeing terrorists on the news, dressed the same as Muslims here, "they see that, they put it in the same category," he said.
The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.
A survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life last month found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.
It showed that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net