by Muslim Link Staff Reporter
Sunday, 26 October 2014
The perfect end to the summer for over 6,000 Muslims in the DC Metro area was a sunny 79 degrees on September 20, 2014 at the 2014 Muslim Day at Six Flags America in Bowie, Maryland.
Driving up the Bugs Bunny parking lot, minivans were packed with families eager to whoosh down roller coasters in what has become an annual American Muslim tradition.
It was Maryam Khan’s first visit to Six Flags, the sixth grader hugged her mother close as she heard what sounded like the famed nasheed artist Junaid Jamshed singing Allah’s praises through the sound system. As her family walked closer to the entrance, her excitement grew as thrilled screams from roller coasters hit the same high notes as the nasheed artist.
The annual Muslim Family Day at the Six Flag family of amusement parks takes place at around 10 metro regions across the country. Here, New Jersey Muslims enjoy the event in 2009. Photo by Saad Malik.
Several Muslim family members had invited their family of other faiths to join in a day where they could meet and greet other Muslim families in a halal environment. “We welcome non-Muslims to the events,” said organizer Haydar Mir. The entire Park was reserved from 11am until sunset. The organization lost money several years in a row as Six Flags prices went up and ICNA subsidized the program, but Mir says they have worked hard on stabilizing the costs.
The core committee that put this event together comprised of Dr. Mahmood Aijazi, Dr. Arif Mannan, Arshad Naseem, Tanveer Khan, Rashid Khan, Junaid Qureshi, Asif Khan, Mohsin Ansari, Amir Nazr, Shaukat Aziz, Yasir Rafi. They met 3-4 times every weeks for months, trying to make the event as Islamic and efficient as possible. “There were also many others who supported this team to make the event successful, but this group has been there from day one of the planning, and most of these brothers have been doing this for several years now,” said Mir Haydar Mir led the effort this year on behalf of the local chapter of ICNA. He says they doubled outreach in areas outside DMV. The organization sponsored the tickets of the women and children living at the Al Muslimaat Shelter for Homeless Muslim Women and Children.
Friends caught up with familiar faces. Saleh lined up for a three-point challenge with friends cheering him on. He was hoping to win a gigantic Scooby Doo, but the Lakers jersey would do too.
Grandpas in wheelchairs soaked in the sun with grandchildren in strollers. “Freedom will come Palestine” played on the sound system as teens sang along.
Mothers with young children shook heads at youth getting in line for kiddie rides. Riding the train with her 6 year old was Faiza from the Dar al Hijrah community. She feels comfortable coming to this event because she wears the niqab because she says “in other places people tend to stare and I feel out of place.”
Several signs marked prayer timings throughout the park. Congregational prayers were held in the Gotham arena while impromptu jamaat were seen throughout the park.
Ilyas and the Duck, picture book characters by Umar Khawaja, engaged the crowd at the story-telling corner. Outside the arena, friends from Laurel, MD gave their taste buds a ride with New York Style rice and chicken from New York Style Gyro. A group of doctors from Frederick, MD, with their families, sat on a bench in Gotham City and gobbled the barbequed chicken from Lahori Chaska, a Pakistani restaurant in Baltimore. Other food stalls included Pizza Roma, Mediterranean Gyros and Kabob on Wheels.
It was Aminah’s Best Kept Secret first ICNA event. A caterer from Gaithersburg, MD she served soul food, succulent fried and grilled chicken, pulled BBQ Beef made fresh on the grill, as well as southern sides such as cabbage. Aminah the owner is a food scientist at the department of agriculture, with a passion for cooking; she used to call her Mama from college and then try her recipes. Aminah and her husband, Basel Vanderhall, catered several iftars at the Islamic Center of Maryland this Ramadan, as well as weddings. They are ready to open a restaurant near the center.’
Two elderly brothers stood in line for the wooden roller coaster, reminiscent of their youth. “Why are we here? Why does everyone come, its fun!” as they hopped on the Roar.
Rizwana from Springfield, VA comes every year with her daughters Ishwa, Shanzay and Hiba. They love that the event is well-organized and they can enjoy a quintessential American experience without profanity and lewdness. Not regular masjid goers, they like meeting Muslim families and loved the call to prayer. Her family’s only complaint was that they wished that the park stayed open longer.
“You missed out on Joker’s Jinx,” gushed Khan to her aunt. Her aunt was busy shopping in the bazaar searching for an Eid al Adha outfit. Several stalls of the 45 non-food vendors dotted the paths to and from the rides. Three groups of vendors set up tables this year: Non-food vendors, 6 food vendors and community organizations. Any community organization could set up a stall for free and ICNA provided them with two admission tickets, a table and a chair, to showcase their work. Twenty community organization availed the opportunity. ICNA hopes this number will increase next year.
Vendor Lama Zibdeh displayed Muslim decor at the stall for her online company based in Maryland, Home Synchronizes. Several items, such as the needlework pillows, were imported from Jordan. Decorative frames and votive candles were handcrafted by Zibdeh and sold as easy Eid gifts. Zibdeh is a residential planner who dabbles in Arabic calligraphy. Reusuable Hajj Mabroor and Eid Mubarak stencils thats she crafts were on sale at her stall.
The Islamic Circle of North America rents out the park across the country to celebrate, often near the annual Eids. This late in the season, Six Flags is closed to the public and is often rented out to private groups. In previous years many anti-Muslim groups have threatened boycotts. It is a tricky situation for Six Flags as they want to accommodate Muslim families without seeming like they are excluding others, so they control the message. This year park employees were not allowed to give comments to the press.
According to Mir, park employees had received sensitivity training about their Muslim guests’ needs. ICNA administration was very satisfied with Six Flags efforts at diversity training. “They were sensitive about crossing in front of a row of attendees praying,” says Mir, an act that is disruptive to praying Muslims.
The event was co-sponsored by Helping Hands USA, ICNA Relief, Zakat Foundation, Islamic Relief, Azzad Funds and WhyIslam.
Still wet from her ride on the Ragin Cajun, Khan had the best pre-Eid time with her cousins and can’t wait to scream her way down Superman next year.
Article Courtesy: Muslim Link