To better understand differences of culture and to eradicate bigotry, one ought to make an attempt to actively listen and try to acquaint themselves with a community. On Sept. 20, the University of Redlands hosted an event in celebration of Eid, one of the major Islamic holidays. Although the actual date of Eid was in the beginning of Sept. before school commenced, the event was held late in order to give the the university an opportunity to celebrate.
Eid Al-Adha is a special Muslim holiday that emphasizes family, solidarity, and kinship. Traditionally, people will often kindly greet each other by saying “Eid Mubarak” which means “blessed Eid.” The hosted dinner was a representation of what an Eid Al-Adha dinner would consist of normally, but the actual holiday includes gift giving, spending time with family and loved ones and the sacrifice of an animal.
At the dinner, there were multiple speakers who provided insight on the holiday as well as the Islamic faith. The city of Redlands, as well as the U of R, has a significant Islamic community that is underrepresented, especially when looking at the scarcity of places for worship in the area. The nearest place for prayer in the city is the Redlands Islamic Center, which is in Loma Linda, and the only place for worship within miles of the city.
The difficulties that many Muslims face is often rooted in Islamophobia, a prejudice that has become unfortunately present in America, and has also worked its way into political platforms. Some conservative media outlets have fueled this prejudice, ridiculing the religion itself and practicing Muslims. For some Muslims, it has become increasingly difficult to combat feelings of alienation once President Trump enacted a travel ban on many Arab and Middle Eastern countries. Because stereotypes and islamophobia act as barriers to Muslims in our society today, overcoming those obstacles was a theme discussed at the Eid dinner. We heard multiple stories from volunteering speakers explaining how they practice Islam, and how they celebrate the holiday. In Islam, it is recommend for everyone to give at least ten percent of their income to charity, and Eid is a day where generosity is promoted. Along with generosity, sharing meals and exchanging greetings or “salaams” to the community is looked upon kindly.
Eid follows Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar where Muslims fast while the sun is out. The purpose of Ramadan is to practice mindfulness of actions throughout the day, and experience the hardships of the impoverished first hand. Ramadan goes on for a month and is then followed by Eid Al-Fitr, another Muslim holiday, marks the end of Ramadan with a time to eat and be with family. Muslim holidays such as these demonstrate that the value of mindfulness and solidarity is heavily embedded in the Islamic faith. Although Islam practices mindfulness and values community, some stereotypes that plague our society deprecate the Muslim people. Islam is practiced peacefully all throughout the world by a great population of Muslims, some of whom were present at the dinner.
Hiba Salih, University of Redlands sophomore, was one of the speakers at Eid. She describes, Islam as a religion of peace, despite all of the stereotypes and negative representation of the faith in media. Salih shared that as a Muslim woman, you face even more obstacles and are subjected to even more stereotypes. This is why she is an advocate for feminism, especially for marginalized individuals.
It was stated at the dinner that Islamophobia continues to grow throughout the nation. Despite what may be represented in the media or what politicians may say, Islamic scripture promotes peace. One of the speakers at the dinner explained that the best way for one to turn away from their stereotypical views of Islam is to personally know one who practices the faith.
“Actively listening is learning, and it is crucial to listen to each others narratives and let those who did not have a voice tell theirs,” Salih explained. “Listening to people’s narratives does not mean you have to completely understand what we are going through, struggles regarding identity need to be validated and supported, not compared.”
photos contributed by story author, Blue Andrade