Over 500 students and faculty members crowded into Commons on Tuesday night for a dinner in celebration of the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Adha.
Hosted by the Yale Muslim Students Association and the University Chaplain’s Office, the 12th annual Eid Banquet gathered Muslims and non-Muslims together for a two-hour dinner that featured short speeches by students and faculty, as well as a keynote address by Omid Safi, an Islamic studies professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The event celebrated the second of two religious holidays with the name Eid honored by Muslims each year.
Eid-al-Adha means the “festival of the sacrifice.” Though the holiday specifically honors the submission of the prophet Abraham to God, the event generally promoted a spirit of gathering and inclusiveness by sending invitations to all Yale undergraduates. The dinner was attended by guests from the local Muslim community, as well as prominent members of the Yale community such as Yale College Dean Mary Miller, University President Peter Salovey, and Salovey’s wife Marta Moret SPH ’84.
“To me, [Eid] means togetherness,” said Yale Muslim Students Association president Didem Kaya ’16 at the start of the dinner.
In his keynote speech, Safi said he believes that having faith in God should involve extending love to all of humanity, and that fighting injustice in society is the key to loving people. Citing Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of radical love in action, Safi called on the dinner’s attendees to “go to that difficult and uncomfortable place” to make morally righteous choices.
Safi also criticized the current American government, which he said spends too much money on military endeavors, while it should instead be focusing on improving the lives of citizens in other respects — such as solving problems in education, healthcare, student loans and environmental issues.
“Love and empire don’t mix. Justice and empire don’t mingle,” Safi said.
Other speakers at the dinner addressed the importance of religious diversity and of having an open and supportive community at Yale. University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 said that she believes religious pluralism and practice are transformative experiences that are key to higher education. Goff-Crews added that the University is dedicated to providing an environment in which students can freely explore religious diversity and develop the religious literacy that is necessary in today’s international society.
As Omer Bajwa, the coordinator of Muslim life in the Yale Chaplain’s Office, explained the meaning of the holiday of Eid, he emphasized the importance of the lessons of faith, gratitude and charity.
Student speakers also made appearances at the dinner. Muneeb Mohideen ’15 delivered a reading from the Quran, and Ishrat Mannan ’17 and Shuaib Raza ’14 gave reflection speeches on their experiences at Yale. Raza said that the large amounts of support from the Chaplain’s Office and the Muslim community at Yale have helped him grow and experience a sense of unity among friends.
Students interviewed after the dinner said that they found the event meaningful, and that the keynote speech — which touched on the responsibility of individuals to ensure justice in society — resonated with them as Yale students.
“I am always impressed with the number and diversity of guests who celebrate the Eid Dinner,” said Iwona Chalus ’16, a student who attended the dinner. “To me, it’s a further proof of the unity of the Yale community.”
Abrar Omeish ’17 said that the event was a good chance for people to become more aware of Muslim culture, especially because the Muslim community is not very highly represented in Yale’s student body.
The dinner began at 6:30 p.m. with a welcome speech by Kaya, and lasted until around 9 p.m.