South Brunswick, 3 Dzulqa’dah 1436/18 August 2015 (MINA) – Promoting Islamic culture and diversity throughout the community, a group of Muslim youth have organised an annual Halal Food Festival Saturday to join in fellowship with Muslims and non-Muslims.
Food has a way of bringing people together, even across bitterly drawn lines, On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
Sami Shaban, one of the event’s organizers stated, “We hope to appeal to all communities,”
“We want all of South Brunswick to come and taste our delicious food,” he said.
A journey that started four years ago, led by Muslim Youth Community Centre, has attracted thousands of people and is still bringing Muslim families from varying cultures in addition to presenting unique deals to non-Muslims.
The festival, held last Saturday at Rowland Park, has attracted vendors from Central Jersey, New York City and even as far away as Ohio.
Many immigrants who attended included Muslims from all over the world, many who were born here, and also non-Muslims who came for the adventure of tasting something new.
One of the vendors included Crescent Foods, a company that sells halal meats, had an information booth at the festival. The company clients include Walmart stores in several mid-Atlantic states, as well as central Jersey, East Brunswick, Flemington, Freehold and Phillipsburg.
Crescent Food’s products have no added antibiotics, no animal by-products and no added hormones. The animals eat all vegetarian diets, are raised cage-free and are treated well, the company’s literature states.
“Many customers like the beef and chicken products, not because they are halal but because they are quality, all natural products from animals that have been raised humanely,” according to Amna Haq, marketing director for Crescent Foods.
Najwa Alsadi, a school bus company owner in Totowa, and her grandson were selling snacks and toys for the second year to raise money for Syrian refugees. She stated that last year they sold $2,000 worth of toys and snacks, and Alsadi matched that dollar for dollar.
Crescent Foods subsequently found another company that would match their $4,000, enabling them to donate $8,000 to Islamic Relief, in association with UNICEF – to get aid to Syrian refugees and Palestinians in Gaza. Event organizers hoped to do at least as well this year.
“Your $2 will feed a meal to a Syrian family,” said Alsadi to a woman who bought a small can of Pringles potato chips.
Two international relief organizations also had booths at the festival: Islamic Relief and Helping Hand. Both have international operations, engaged in micro-financing, disaster relief, orphan sponsorship, health care and education.
Helping Hand is sending clothing and food to Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Jordan and is enabling many families, often women, to get on their feet through micro-financing.
The organization also sends disaster relief after earthquakes and other natural disasters, helping people regardless of nationality.
“We were in Haiti 72 hours after the earthquake,” said Saqid Attique, regional coordinator for Helping Hand. “I myself was there.”
Salman and Maria Tarar of Sayreville brought their sons, aged 5 and 7, to the festival for the first time on Saturday. They enjoyed a meal of ribs and corn in the big tent that provided chairs, tables and shade for the diners. Salman Tarar said he had a big beef burger called a Juicy Lucy.
After they ate, they planned to take their boys to the inflatables where they could bounce around and have fun. “It’s great food,” Salman Tarar said. “It’s halal, it’s good. We will definitely come again next year.”
Tasnima Kadak of East Windsor and her family came again this year, having come to every fair since the event’s inception. She likes the food and the clothing vendors. Her grandchildren like bouncing on the inflatables.
“We eat, then we shop. It’s so hot outside, so we sit over here,” she said as her family ate at one of the tables in the big tent.
Shaban later concluded that it wa too early to predict what might happen next year. It takes about five months of intensive planning for Shaban and the directors of the Muslim Youth Community Center to organize a festival.
He’s got some ideas about expanding next year’s festival with even more vendors and activities. But on Saturday, he was well satisfied with the 60 vendors, the soccer tournament and the attendees from across New Jersey. He expects they’ll explore some new activities for next year, too.
“One thing’s for sure. We want to expand across the board with more food, more bouncy toys and an increased number of vendors” he said. (T/P006/RO6)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)