LA Times Book Fest: Islamic involvement at the festival
By Nicolette Kelegian, Annenberg Radio, USC
LOS ANGELES, California (April 19, 2013) – The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is scheduled this weekend at the University of Southern California. On Saturday, there will be more than 300 booths spread across the University Park Campus and more than 150,000 people are expected to attend the festival.
While there are various different booths around campus ranging from authors and publishing houses to fresh food collaboratives, there are two tents likely to stick out: Islamic organizations prepared to educate people about Muslims and the Islam religion.
The Islamic Circle of North America organization was established in 1968 and has been present at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books since 2004. The organization claims it’s the largest Muslim organization in America. The Islamic Circle’s main goal in attending this festival each year is to educate the people according to Waqas Syed, the organization’s deputy secretary general.
“We are more about offering facts about our religion; What does Islam say about terrorism, about violence, and other things so people can make their own informed opinion,” said Syed.
At the festival, the Islamic Circle of North America has distributed up to 12,000 copies of the literature and 4,000 copies of the Holy Qur’an all for free.
“The objective of the project is not to proselytize or convert people but to basically provide educational opportunities for the general public to know and inquire about Islam and Muslims,” he said.
This year, this festival is coming just days after the Boston Marathon explosion, which many Americans speculate has Muslim ties. Syed is concerned about how people will react to the booth this year, but doesn’t plan to back out. In previous years, there have been people who didn’t like this organization’s presence at the festival.
“a person whose Marine brother had died in the Iraq war was pretty upset and said you killed my brother and things like that, but overall we’ve had a very broad support from everyone” Syed said.
Al Islam is the second Islamic organization attending the festival this year. Al Islam is like a digital portal of books on Islam and lectures available for people who want to learn more about Islam.
Imam Shamshad Nasir belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Nasir is the Regional Imam for California, Nevada, and Nebraska. “There are so many misunderstandings and Islam is a very misunderstood region in the world right now and especially in the American society,” Nasir said.
Nasir wants to clear up the stereotypes people have against muslims. “People think that all Muslims are terrorists, which is not true. We want to remove the misunderstanding by telling them that Islam is peace, Islam is submission to the will of God,” Nasir said.
Both organizations said they are aren’t trying to convert people to Islam, but better educate people about the religion.
In light of the Boston explosions, USC’s Department of Public Safety has said it’s asked for an on-call bomb sniffing dog and more LAPD officers to help out with the large crowds at the festival this weekend.