Nearly 500 visitors to the Islamic Center of East Lansing participated in the Salaam Peace Festival on Oct. 2. As part of the Greater Lansing Peace Quest held throughout the month of September, this final event celebrated the diversity of Muslim culture.
Salman Mirza of the Islamic Center was one of the event’s planners.
“When people think of Muslims,” he said, “they may think of just one group of people that act, eat, look the same. But that’s not true. We’re as diverse as any other group.”
Covering the parking lot and grounds of the Center on Harrison Road across from the Michigan State University campus, several area restaurants and locally-owned small businesses were on-hand to cater to visitors. The options included Iraqi restaurant Sparty’s Kabob, Lebanese restaurant Ozzy’s Kabob and Malaysian restaurant PappaRoti.
Small business owner and MSU student Saleh Alnuaimi was also present to sell cookies and desserts from his confectionery company, Fluffy, based in his home country, the United Arab Emirates.
“I really enjoyed the experience where I met a lot of people and I was happy to engage with the MSU and East Lansing community,” he said. This was his business’ first introduction to the Lansing community.
Face painting, a henna station, a bouncy house and someone to craft balloon animals were attractions that kept young people engaged.
“We were really only expecting maybe 300 people,” Mirza said. “We were happy to be wrong and welcome many more people.”
Jaxon Sherwin of Haslett was one such community attendee.
“I think that events like the Peace Festival promote understanding and acceptance of other cultures and religions, which in turn promotes peace,” he said. “You can’t hate people who you understand.”
For Mirza, this event had been a long time coming.
“Since the start of the pandemic, our community has really been cut off from one-another,” he said. “We’ve had some things on Zoom, but it’s just not the same. This is our first big community event in several years and we hope it is the first of many more to come.”
The Salaam Peace Festival was not the only Peace Quest event in East Lansing. The Lansing Poetry Club held a fundraiser for the Refugee Development Center at the United Methodist Church at 1120 S. Harrison. Similarly, 50 percent of profits from the Salaam Peace Festival were donated to programs supporting local Afghani refugees.