Local Muslims provide entertainment, education at annual community event
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The local Muslim community got together with the Greater Daytona community last Saturday for a day of fun and dialogue.
The Muslim Women’s Association (WMA) of Daytona Beach held its annual Community Outreach Program on April 29 at the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach.
It was the fifth straight year that the event took place.
“We just want people to know Islam in a positive way,” said Linda McGee, chair of the Muslim Women’s Association.
Answers from imam
The event included an open house of the Islamic Center. It also informed the community on services the center provides and the things that members do in the community. There was free food, giveaways and an outdoor festival with activities for children.
There also was a question-and-answer period with the center’s spiritual leader, Imam Belal Shemman.
“We also do this event to bring all people of all religions together to spend a day in unity together as one community,” McGee noted.
Local leaders speak
Local civic leaders and community activists were on hand for the event.
They included Volusia County Council Member Joyce Cusack, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, Zone 1 Commissioner Ruth Trager, Zone 5 Commissioner Danette Henry, Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP President Cynthia Slater, Campbell Middle School Principal Dr. Jerry L. Picott, Black Clergy Alliance President and Master’s Domains Church of God in Christ Pastor Derrick Harris, the Revs. Kennedy Jacobs and Victor Gooden as well as Dr. Evelyn Bethune representing the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune family.
Cusack, both Henrys and Bethune all gave remarks.
‘Open mind and heart’
Susan Maini was one of the attendees who enjoyed the fellowship, dialogue and festivities of the event.
She told the Daytona Times, “I am a Christian, but I always come to these open house events. I come with an open mind and heart. Here they are always gracious and generous.”
Carolyn Smithson has attended the event regularly with her daughter.
“I think this is a great event. It is very nice. We come to this every year. It’s open to the community. They welcome everyone and they feed everybody. The Islamic Center does a lot in the community. They treat us with respect and we treat them with respect.”
‘Get to know us’
Community outreach is a big goal for the Muslim Women’s Association. All of its members are connected with the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach.
Board Member Aalia Panja expressed, “We open up the mosque to the community so that people can get to know us and ask questions. We are a part of the community. We want to know how we can help the community and work together with the community to better our community.”
The Islamic community has been plagued with negative images in the media relating to terrorism and other issues.
Many area residents have been affected by or know someone who has been impacted by the Trump administration’s executive order immigration travel ban.
“We have been here for years. Muslims are everywhere in this community, nation and world. We are your doctors, engineers, police, nurses, educators, etc.,’’ Panja added.
“There are a lot of negative attitudes out there towards Muslims because of images that people have seen in the media. This event is a chance for people to come ask questions and get the information from the source as well as get to know us for yourself.”