Muslims and supporters share a picnic to enhance understanding

Thirty-six-year-old Marwan Majid understands the importance of a strong Muslim community and its need to educate the public about the Islamic faith. Majid believes discrimination he experienced as a student at Purdue University in Indiana stemmed more from ignorance than hatred.

To further understanding between those of different faiths, the Bay Area’s Muslim community gathered for a family picnic and barbecue June 3 at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale. This second annual event was hosted by the Council of American-Islamic Relations’ San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.

CAIR was founded in 1994, and now has more than 30 chapters nationwide, five of them in California. The organization focuses primarily on civil rights work, but is also an active presence in the American media, producing numerous publications to help educate the public about Islam.

The organization chose Sunnyvale for the picnic because of its central location within the region, which stretches from Marin County to Santa Cruz. Last year’s picnic was also held at Baylands Park, where an estimated 300 CAIR members and supporters shared in the festivities.

This year’s event featured a candidates’ forum and a voter registration table to promote the theme of community empowerment. CAIR hosted two other campaigns. In February, the organization opened the doors of mosques around the country for “Explore the Life of Muhammad.” The event detailed the life of the prophet in an effort to demystify Muhammad and his teachings. It is estimated thousands of people from all over the nation participated in the teach-in. CAIR’s second major campaign, “Explore the Quran,” is ongoing and distributes free Qurans to individuals so they can read the religious text and draw their own conclusions.

One focus of the picnic was the discrimination that has plagued the Muslim community, particularly in the aftermath of Sept. 11. CAIR outreach coordinator Sameena Usman said, “There are some people who have yelled things out like, ‘Go home!’ And I’m like, ‘Where? Santa Clara?’ ”

Even so, Majid, who also belongs to CAIR, spoke optimistically about the situation, praising CAIR’s efforts and the family picnic. “The beauty of an event like this,” he said, “is seeing people of all different cultures, and yet they’re all Muslims. And more importantly, they’re all Americans.”

This piece originally appeared in The Cupertino Courier.

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