October 4, 2015

Dozens Gather to Celebrate Eid at Annual Banquet

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One hundred and thirty people packed into the Biotechnology Building on Saturday for Cornell’s annual Eid al-Adha Banquet, which boasted an upbeat atmosphere and diverse crowd.

People who attended the banquet represented a variety of cultures and backgrounds, according to Hasna Zainul ’17, treasurer of the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, which hosted the banquet. Approximately 20 percent of attendees were not MECA members, Zainul said.

MECA members decorated the banquet room in a scheme of blue and yellow, with the back wall draped in an ornate paper tapestry covered with gold camels. The backdrop was used for group pictures as guests walked in.

As old friends and newcomers mingled and exchanged “Eid Mubarak” messages, MECA President Ehab Ebeid ’18 and member Ama Frederickson ’17 rang in the night with a recitation and translation of the Quran.

The audience was taken by surprise by a twist on traditional Eid celebrations when Syed Samin ’19 took the stage and beat-boxed. A slew of remarks could be heard echoing around the room, with one wide-eyed observer citing how “this is pretty different” from the norm. Children clapped along with the beat, dancing along the side of the banquet hall.

The performance and its accompanying reactions reflected the spirit of the night, as mentioned by keynote speaker Fiyyaz Jaat, the Islamic Society of North America’s youth programming and services director.

Jaat spoke on the point of unison transcending religious and cultural differences, saying there is a disparity pertaining to the Muslim observance of Eid.

“There are two ways which people can determine when to celebrate Eid — calculating and moon sighting,” Jaat said. “Where should our hearts be? No matter what my position is, I will defend the other one no matter what.”

When asked if the banquet goes along with the usual traditions associated with Eid, Akida Erken grad, who is from China, said it very much resembled her family’s Eid celebrations back home.

“In China for Eid, everyone opens their doors and welcomes anyone, no matter if they are Muslim or not. We will prepare lots of food,” Erken said. “Last year, our family had over 100 visitors for Eid.”

The same view of Eid and the banquet as a time to come together was echoed by Ali Moeed grad, who is from Pakistan.

“Eid back home means getting together with family and celebrating together,” Moeed said. “Because Muslims here at Cornell come from different communities, even culturally this event is diverse. It is more often a cultural than a religious event here; this is more of a cultural gathering.”

Ebeid, who is from Egypt, echoed the cultural significance of the banquet, citing it as a great opportunity to showcase the culture and the Islamic community at Cornell.

“A lot of the Muslims here like to invite their friends who may not necessarily be Muslim,” Ebeid said. “One thing that I really love is how this really showcases the type of events that MECA organizes which are just so inclusive in nature. We pride ourselves on being anti-sectarian and being inclusive of all traditions of Islamic thought and practice. The banquet really brings that to life.”

When asked what Eid means to him, Ebeid said he saw it as a familial affair.

“Eid to me is about going around to visit every single member of our family who is in proximity,” Ebeid said. “This is not something that I will be able to do here, but this comes very close. This is family.”