With debates of moon-sighting still causing Eid Al-Fitr to be held on various days, many Muslims find it difficult to celebrate the Eid festivities with friends and relatives living in other communities. Fortunately, the ‘Muslim Family Day’ offers an opportunity for all Muslims to come together shortly after Eid to celebrate their faith amidst much fun and celebration.
In what has become an annual tradition, taking place for the fourth time in the Washington DC area, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held their annual ‘Muslim Family Day’ at Six Flags in Largo Maryland, on September 18, 2011. An estimated fi ve thousand Muslims attended the event and enjoyed the accessible halal food, bazaars, carnival rides, and roller coasters. The usual theme park’s music was replaced with Islamic nasheeds, and signs displaying ‘pork’ and ‘beer’ were temporarily covered for the Muslim event.
Jerry Fleming, an employee of Six Flags, observed, “This event was very different than other cultural events that we host here. People usually walk around with frowns, but everyone here today is smiling. You can feel the peace and family spirit amongst everyone. It’s as if they all know each other”.
Organizers worked diligently to make sure this year’s Muslim Family Day event would be even better and well-attended than previous events at the theme park.
“There was much more community involvement this year. We had over twenty community booths and a good number of volunteers on the day of the event,” said organizer Arif Mannan. “The final number is not out, but over five thousand is a decent estimate. There was good weather [allowing] all rides [to] open, so people were scattered all over and there was less congestion everywhere. The attendance was good alhamdulillah and we are getting very good responses from the people who attended the event,” he added.
Habib Ghanim, a bazaar vendor representing Rahma International Store, felt the event was well organized. “The event could have been better by having more Muslims here, but [it] was well put together,” he remarked.
Mohamed Bangura, a 20-year-old attendee said, “This event was nice because it brought together so many Muslims. It really showed the brotherhood of Islam”.
The ‘Muslim Family Day’ event began in New Jersey in 2000 and is organized by local ICNA chapters in conjunction with ICNA National. In addition to Washington DC, ICNA offered similar events at other Six Flags theme parks in Atlanta, Albany, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, Dallas, and San Francisco. In recent years, ICNA organizers had to not only manage the various events but also deal with controversy at both the national and regional level.
The family-oriented events had caused a national stir last year due to the events taking place on the 9/11 weekend, but ICNA representatives defended the annual celebration and appeared on several media outlets, noting that one of the key founders of Muslim Family Day, Tariq Amanullah who worked on the 96th floor of WTC, Tower 2, was also killed in the
The local Washington DC ‘Muslim Family Day’ event was also marred with controversy when in 2008, Six Flags security officials inappropriately handcuffed and harassed two Muslim men. Due to this unfortunate experience, organizers worked closely with theme park officials to ensure that intolerant acts would not take place this year. As part of their contract with ICNA, Six Flags officials had to conduct several ‘diversity training’ sessions for the employees. The training seems to have paid off, event organizers say, as “no incident has been reported or observed this year”.
ICNA organizers are now planning to make the next ‘Muslim Family Day’ event an even bigger hit. While they are still eliciting feedback and determining what to improve for the next year, they have already decided that they plan to include more youth in the management of this event. “We really want to involve young adults in this event”, Mannan said. “We will offer internships also in future years for this and other big events”.
To find out more about Muslim Family Day, please visit muslimfamilyday.com.