CA: MusliMeMfest showcases Memphis’ diversity
Exotic smells wafted through Agricenter International on Saturday, as cuisines from many countries characterized the diversity of the Muslim community during MusliMeMfest, a festival held to foster and strengthen the relationships between the diverse communities of Memphis.
The event lets people learn about Islam in an open and less stressful environment, said Nabil A. Bayakly, an event organizer and co-founder of the Muslim in Memphis.
“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 said.
Muslims have been in America since Christopher Columbus, he said
“Two of the 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.”
And Muslims are as American as the Boy Scouts of America, according to Walid Awad, camp master for Pack 220 Muslim Cub Scouts.
Awad was a Boy Scout growing up in Egypt and when he had his first son while here in the United States, he wanted him in scouting. He organized the pack in 2006 and has 23 boys.
Awad had a table at the festival to let the Muslim community know about scouting. The principles behind scouting are the same around the world, he said.
“Here you have much more resources and help and training and different activities, but the values are still the same,” Awad said.
The festival also was a way to learn about the contributions Muslims have made in the world, from architecture to the invention of algebra in the 9th century, the camera and one of the first flying machines.
President Donald Trump campaigned with a promise to ban Muslim immigration and has since attempted two executive orders to ban travel from six Muslim-majority countries. Those orders were blocked by a federal judge.
And even though there are people who are unwilling to attend an event like the festival, those who do attend will help spread the word and open up the dialogue, said Angie Odeh, festival media coordinator.
“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.”
Soaking in the experience were Neve Valentine, 18 and Connar Foote, 19, both college students who became friends at Arlington High School.
They came to the festival for the food and to learn more about the faith.