Almost 600 students, faculty, and members of the New Haven community gathered in Commons Wednesday for an elegant banquet to celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.
The dinner, which celebrates the Muslim festival of sacrifice and the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael, replaced Yale’s traditional Ramadan banquet because the Islamic month of Ramadan fell during August and early September. Speakers at the ninth annual celebration included Provost Peter Salovey and Rami Nashashibi, the executive director of the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), a social justice and urban arts cultivation organization.
When guests entered the hall, they were greeted by special decor including white tablecloths, gold napkins, and international flags hung from the walls. Yale Dining served lamb vindaloo and several specially designated halal dishes, or dishes prepared according to Islamic law.
Provost Peter Salovey thanked the Yale Muslim Students Association for their hospitality in reaching out to the Yale and New Haven community. Salovey said it has been an honor for him to attend the group’s annual banquets.
“To me, this is what the University should be about,” Salovey said.
Nashashibi, who has been named one of the “500 Most Influential Muslims in the World” by Georgetown’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, spoke after dinner was served. He began by highlighting the significance of Eid al-Adha, which he described as one of the most sacred holidays of the Muslim calendar.
“It is the most transformative experience of a Muslim’s lifetime,” Nashashibi said.
Eid al-Adha reminds Muslims of the importance of humility, he said, adding that nothing about one’s background makes him or her better than another human. All men are equal in that God grants dignity to all, he said.
Nashashibi also said the holiday of Eid al-Adha is characterized by acts of service, at which point he extended an invitation to Yalies to actively work towards improving society, adding that with great privilege and opportunities come certain responsibilities. He encouraged student religious groups to not only discuss religion on campus, but to also use their influence to effect the greater community.
People should move beyond sharing the beauty of each other’s text and instead start facing issues that are affecting American communities, he said, and commended the campus group Jews and Muslims at Yale for their efforts to foster dialogue and raise awareness about contemporary issues facing Jews and Muslims.
In keeping with banquet tradition, a freshman and a senior from the Muslim Students Association gave brief accounts of their college experiences. Zaina Zayyad ’14 said she feared she would not find a religious community before coming to Yale, but added that she was pleased to find that Yale was a welcoming place.
“Every freshman heard the word ‘community’ at least 200 times,” she said of freshman orientation, to laughter from the audience.
Umar Qadri ’11 said it was a relief to come to Yale, where people have differing religious views and experiences, from his rural hometown in Maryland.
Qadri said he learned more about himself in this environment, comparing diversity at Yale to a light that produces different shades and reflections.
In lieu of the Ramadan banquet, Battell Chapel served an “iftar” fast breaking meal to Muslim students during the first weeks of the semester. Beginning in 2011, no part of Ramadan will coincide with the academic year.