Muslim Picnic: 'It's very important they can see that they are not alone.'
For this last summer week before Labor Day and the start of school, this picnic in Martin Luther King Jr. Park was pretty standard: hot dogs, cold pop, bounce houses and families enjoying the vast splash pad. However, it was actually different: many women were in hijabs, the hot dogs were halal and the books on sale were English translations of the Koran.
Western New York Muslims had a lot of reasons for holding a picnic on a warm and sunny late August Sunday: a chance for Muslim kids to get together, a chance for adults to talk and a chance to show the diversity in Buffalo's growing Islamic community.
It is a varied community, although many seemed to live in the receptive and supportive Williamsville School District. That is where Attiq Rahman lives.
He said the Williamsville School District is welcoming and supportive of Muslim kids. Still, Rahman said events like this are important to these kids.
"It's very important because they need to see that in the community there are other kids similar to them so they can see that they are not alone," he aid, "and I think it reinforces their identity to see other Muslims in the community."
Group Community Outreach Coordinator Farina Mirza said her kids are growing up in a multicultural society surrounded by kids and families of many faiths. She said it is a chance for Muslims to be Muslims.
"Spreading awareness for our youth. But you are absolutely right, they're confused," Mirza said. "That's the reason why we started this organization, that our youth can recognize their position, their friends as a Muslim and how can they survive as an American Muslim."
Sana Iqbal is a third-year pre-med student at the University at Buffalo, a school with Muslims from around the world. Iqbal said the mix of religion and the secular society can be difficult.
"To maintain our religion. So, again, it comes down to us, if we want to stick to it or if we don't," he said. "Me, personally, I absolutely love my religion. I love my culture. I try to speak in my own language as much as possible. So, again, it's down to the individual of how they feel, if they want to maintain their culture or they want to adopt the one here in America or they want to combine the two."