Muslim American Heritage Day hits D.C.
Hundreds of students and community members gathered in Freedom Plaza to see cultural performances, eat traditional Muslim food and watch informational presentations at the Muslim American Heritage Day Friday.
The festival, coordinated by the Muslim American Society, was “designed to promote and enhance mutual understanding and respect between the Muslim community and the rest of American society,” said Dr. Saleh M. Nusarait, chairman of the Heritage Day project.
“People suffer from a lack of knowledge,” said Amna Arshad, GW Muslim Student Association president. “What we’re trying to do is to provide basic things every American should know about the Muslim community.”
Arshad, a junior, helped organize the Heritage Day project.
“After 9/11 the Muslim community was awakened,” Arshad said. “There were hate crimes, but there was a lot of compassion too. That’s what lack of knowledge does to people. We’re here to tell people about our culture and combat the ignorance of the local community.”
Senior Katelin Mason agreed.
“People are learning a lot more about their own religions as well as that of Islam,” she said.
The day’s events included a speech by D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams encouraging exploration of the Muslim religion.
“People disregard how important the Muslim community is in this country,” Arshad said. “Americans need to realize that what they know as Judeo-Christian traditions are actually Judeo-Christian-Muslim traditions.”
Presentations focused on the Islamic way of life in political, social, economic, judicial and religious areas. Short documentary videos were shown in tents at the event and displayed many historical and cultural artifacts from such Islamic countries as Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
“I feel that this event is one of many that have started to promote awareness,” sophomore Maryam Sarrafe said. “After the events of the last year it is even more important to promote awareness of what Islam is truly about.”
Former presidential candidate speaks at local meeting
Reading from his book of poetry and offering insight into politics and culture, former presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy highlighted a Foggy Bottom Association meeting last week. Introducing McCarthy, Foggy Bottom Association President Ron Cocome called him “a truly great American.”
McCarthy, a Minnesota senator from 1959 to 1971 and Democratic presidential candidate in 1968, shared his thoughts on government, elections and the media before reading selections from his 1997 book of poetry “Eugene J. McCarthy: Selected Poems.”
McCarthy recommended getting rid of the two-party system in government.
“They are so close together that they never raise any important issues,” he said.
McCarthy stressed the importance of the Electoral College, cutting campaign spending and increasing government representatives in order for them to represent a smaller constituent of the population.
McCarthy’s poetry dealt with politics, society and his hopes for peace. One poem, “Public Man,” re-affirmed his statements about senators and publicity.
“(The public man) shades his eyes against fireflies . nose to the ground like a blind bloodhound . elbows slowly sunk into tablecloth.”