Every year, millions of people flock to Mecca to celebrate Eid al-Adha in the world’s largest human gathering. Claremont’s Eid festivities, hosted by the Muslim Students Association (MSA) on Oct. 9, attracted a much smaller crowd, with just over a hundred guests in attendance, but the spirit of the holiday was fully present.
MSA co-president Leyth Swidan PO ‘16 opened the evening with remarks about the organization’s goals for the coming year. He stressed the importance of building community and creating a welcoming space for all Muslim students. Swidan was followed by co-president Noor Hamdy SC ’18, who introduced the new Muslim chaplain, Safa Plenty. Plenty was appointed interim part-time Muslim life coordinator in the Chaplains Office at the Claremont Colleges’ McAlister Center for Religious Activities in September. This appointment was in response to an initiative launched by the MSA to bring a full-time Muslim chaplain to the colleges.
The event was held the week after Eid due to scheduling constraints in Edmunds Ballroom. Many Muslims on campus gathered on the actual day of Eid for morning prayer and, later, for dinner at Pomona economics professor Tahir Andrabi’s home. But MSA wanted to offer a more inclusive celebration that would be open to all Muslims and non-Muslims in Claremont.
“It was a good turnout, but I know that there are more Muslims on campus,” Hamdy said.
The celebration delivered a combination of religious, cultural and educational offerings. In addition to Quranic recitation, henna, Arabic calligraphy and Mediterranean food, the evening included a keynote speaker from the University of Wisconsin, Madison Law School.
The speaker, Dr. Asifa Quraishi, was visiting the Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School, an institution with which the MSA has worked in the past, and agreed to address guests at the Eid celebration. Quraishi spoke about recent events that have adversely affected both the Muslim community and the perceptions of the Muslim community. The theme of inclusion was brought up again when she talked about inclusive aspects of Islamic law and dispelled myths about Sharia perpetuated by the American media.
“We wanted to touch on community, but also how Islam is perceived in America for the people attending who were not Muslim,” Hamdy said.
Greater MSA outreach both within the Muslim community and the greater Claremont community was touted as an important goal for the Eid celebration and for the year ahead. Swidan recalled his involvement in the organization two years earlier.
“MSA was really active then,” he said. “We had the Hijabi monologues, we had the Eid celebration, we had different events going on. And I thought that all these events throughout the semester really did bring people together and that’s what I’d like to see this year.”
However, Swidan also pointed out a deliberate difference between this year’s Eid and the event two years ago. While the 2012 Eid attracted a large crowd with an Afghan band, this year’s celebration was less focused on entertainment.
“We’re really trying to foster a sense of community among Muslims on campus and to do that, we don’t really need entertainment. All we need is just good people, good food and good conversation, and that’s what Friday night was,” Swidan said.
Comparing this year’s Eid festivities to those in years past, Hamdy admitted to missing her family’s holiday tradition of morning prayers followed by breakfast at IHOP. Still, she said that the MSA celebration was a worthy stand-in.
“The Middle Eastern food beats IHOP any day,” Hamdy said.