Community Eid Dinner
A Report by Sofia Walker '11
The upper level of the campus center has been transformed: a table covered in snacks and drinks stands in front of a wall of colorful scarves; nearby is a display of recent news articles on Islam and a poster explaining Muslim women's reasons for wearing the hijab, a veil that hides their hair; everywhere are women in scarves and long, bright, beaded gowns. Al Iman is holding its annual Community Eid Dinner.
Inside the Carroll Room, students and community members sat snacking and conversing. At one point the visiting imam performed a call to prayer, and several left to make their ablutions and complete the fourth of the Muslim's five daily prayers. Myra Lam '11, munching on pretzels, said that she came because she loves Middle Eastern Food, but also because "it's cool that Smith celebrates culture and diversity in this way, and that the Muslims come together."
The event proper began with an explanation of Eid al-Adha, not to be confused with Eid ul-Fitr, which falls earlier in the year. The three-day celebration commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God. Imam Marshall Shamsuddeen, visiting from Poughkeepsie, NY, explicated this relationship with a reflection of the relative natures of the Creator and the created. Then Tahani Salah, a Brooklyn-based spoken-word poet who has performed on Def Poetry Jam, read poems that focused on her Palestinian heritage and the beauty of Islam. The evening was rounded out by recitations from the Qur'an translated by a bevy of Muslim Smithies, who mixed their traditional garb with colorful sneakers, and a presentation on the flooding in Pakistan. Then came the glorious finish: a Middle Eastern meal catered Aladdin's Halal Restaurant in Connecticut.
All of this required a considerable effort. Saira Huq '12, one of the heads of Al Iman, explained that the group has to start planning the event in the summer. "At home, it's much more of a celebration," she said. "But here we really want to educate."
The mood throughout the evening was good-humored and open, but some audience members did confess themselves confused by the imam's discourse. "I just really don't think that way about God," said one student. The imam, too, had to adjust. "I'm always nervous before I talk," he said, "but I think I was more nervous tonight than ever before. I knew it was a women's college, but it didn't really hit me until I got here -- there really aren't any guys!"
But whatever differences were revealed by the evening, it was clear that everyone could come together over a good meal. Saira said that this was one of the goals of the dinner. "The Muslim exterior seems really different, because we wear the veil and dress differently, but really we want to show that there are more similarities than differences." I think they succeeded: the lasting impression of the dinner was of a delicious meal and a deep sense of community.