By Arif Kabir
Superman. Batman. Joker. The names inspire a nostalgic feeling for many. For some, it reminds them of the old days when everyone used to read comics. Others remember the many movies throughout the years that were coined under those names. For most Muslims however, it has taken on a new meaning.
On Saturday, October 4, 2008, local chapters of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and WhyIslam hosted a “Muslim Family Day” event held at Six Flags America in Bowie, Maryland. The amusement park featured many thrilling rides such as Mind Eraser, Tower of Doom, Joker’s Jinx, Batwing, and Superman. This year, the park was opened two hours early exclusively for Muslim families. Organizers also reserved a large private picnic area for the whole day.
For the last few years, the Six Flags Muslim Day events occurred in areas with large concentrations of Muslims like Chicago and New Jersey. This year, ICNA decided to create “the largest Muslim event in 2008” and held the Muslim Day in 7 different locations including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, Dallas, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. All of the locations had their Muslim Day events either on the day of Eid or the week after, with the exception of Chicago because they were expecting cold weather in the month of October.
The Washington DC Muslim Day event was a first, and organizers were keen on getting as many metro area Muslims out as possible.
“We have been working on this project intensively for more than five months contacting various Masajid and local organizations and trying our best to get the word out,” said Sarfarz Ameen, head coordinator for the event. “We didn’t see many tickets sold in the first few weeks and we started getting worried that we would not be able to reach our goal of selling three thousand tickets. Alhamdulillah, ticket sales really went up in the days right before the event and we were able to get more than 7000 Muslims to attend the event.”
As this was the first year, the organizers were only able to get two hours exclusively for Muslims. Many Muslims felt a bit disappointed about this, though others saw it as an opportunity for Dawah. Mahfuzur Rahman, one of the attendees of the event commented, “I felt really great seeing so many Muslims in the park and seeing the reactions of the non-Muslim attendees towards us. From the look in their eyes, I could see that they never saw this many Muslims together and they looked surprised seeing Muslims having fun and enjoying themselves because they normally view us as an isolated community. For them to see just how united our community can be and the fact that we can have fun just like anybody else sends a big message across to them. This event really instilled a sense of pride for me as a Muslim.”
At the private picnic area, the place was packed with Muslims of all ages. A prayer area had almost non-stop congregations throughout the day. On another side, there was a playground where little kids were running around and playing. The most prominent part of the picnic area however, was the central pavilion, where local halal restaurants like Kafé Kabob, Nash Subs, Kabob on Wheels, RJ Café, and Silver Spoon doled out their delicacies. The atmosphere was lively, as there were Muslims everywhere enjoying their time with their family and friends.
Adnan Zaber, a 10 year-old from College Park, MD, said, “My favorite part of coming to this event was that I got to go on all the rides with my friends. Before, I used to feel lonely coming to Six Flags, but this time I had a lot of fun because I had more than 10 friends with me!”
Some Muslims in this community not only enjoyed the Muslim Day event in Washington DC, but also ones that were held in the other locations across the East Coast. Aurangzeb Nisar, a resident of College Park, has family that lives in New Jersey and for this Eid he drove up to spend it with them. As the Muslim Day event in New Jersey was coincidentally happening on Eid, he went to Six Flags to celebrate his Eid. He says, “Alhamdulillah, this year’s Muslim Day Event was awesome! The Eid Khateeb for this year was Yasir Qadhi and since they were only three lines of attendees in the morning, we got his ‘full effect’. His Khutbah was mainly focused on the fact that in reality, we are a minority and as a result, we need to be active in both Muslim and Non-Muslim communities. This year, I enjoyed the Muslim Day event much more because the lines were shorter and the Six Flags employees were very professional and courteous towards us.”
For ICNA, this was one of the most successful years ever as there were more than 54,000 Muslims nationwide that had come to one of the Six Flags Muslim Day locations. While the Washington DC location had more than 7000 attendees, Chicago had 4000 attendees, Dallas had 8000 attendees, Atlanta had 3000 attendees, New England had 2000, and New Jersey had a whooping 20,000 attendees.
For its first year in the Washington DC area, the results were very successful in terms of attendance and organization. The question however arises now; how will it fare next year? One organizer commented, “Insha’ Allah, we plan to improve many things such as the catering, easing the traffic congestion, and we are currently in talks with the Six Flags administration to see if we can get the whole day for Muslims”.
An incident involving a Six Flags security officer and two Muslim men marred an otherwise enjoyable day for many Eid goers. Several witnesses said two brothers were harassed, inappropriately handcuffed and manhandled by security officers. Legal action is pending. Witnesses are urged to come forward by emailing the attorney for the men at firstname.lastname@example.org .