Eid Dinner provides cultural insight through food, conversation

Eid-al-Adha—better known as Eid—is one of biggest holidays of the year for Muslims around the world. It marks the completion of hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Those who attended the Muslim Student Association’s Eid Dinner Extravaganza on Sunday Oct. 19 at the College Union Ballroom received a glimpse into how the holiday is celebrated and what Eid represents. The night began a little later than expected, with Islamic Center of Rochester in New York pastor and guest speaker Imam Ismat Ackin taking the stage. Everyone quickly fell in complete silence for a short hymn. Although there was no translation, none was needed to appreciate the beautiful Arabic that echoed throughout the entire room.

Ackin went on to explain what Eid represents. He explained that hajj means to “continuously strive to reach one’s goal.”

This pilgrimage is an obligation that Muslims have to perform once in their lives. The journey itself is not easy and not everyone can partake in it. They must be financially and physically able to, as it can be pricey and physically challenging.

Ackin later went on to explain how rewarding the end of the pilgrimage is. It teaches the values of humility and peace with Allah. This is what the celebration is about. The trials and triumphs of the Prophet Abraham––who started the pilgrimage, according to the Quran––are also celebrated.

Professor and supervisor of the MSA at the University of Rochester Ahmet Celemi followed up the first talk by elaborating on the traditions and symbols of Eid. This included an explanation of the special greetings the Muslim culture has and the modesty and duty of praying five times a day.

“When we practice these traditions, we have to show them publicly so that we can encourage others to do the same thing,” he said. Celemi also referred to the importance of these intercultural gatherings for students; to spread awareness and peace among various communities.

After the talks, guests were invited to begin the dinner. The room was suddenly filled with a rich aroma of curry, lentils, samosas and basmati rice. Each dish was filled with many spices and flavors.

As guests ate, MSA played a video made by members which explored how students who identified as Muslim felt on campus in their everyday lives, as well as other Geneseo students’ perspectives on what Islam means to them. Both comical and serious, the video discussed identity issues among Muslim students and showed how they really felt on a campus and even at home, where Islam could be negatively stereotyped.

The video was based on real experiences these students have had at some point in their lives. “We all have our background story of feeling uncomfortable not just in Geneseo, but elsewhere because of our religion,” senior MSA president Nadia Abdulwahab said. “[Islam] is my whole life basically, it’s always with me … it’s a lifestyle.”

Hopefully, what students and others took away from this close to authentic dinner celebration will spread throughout campus and beyond.