I stood in the gargantuan queue en route to the Annual Eid Dinner on September 21 in the Malkin Penthouse. There was a lot of excitement in the air. People were gung-ho about everything – the food, the customary Eid greeting, and about meeting fellow HKS students.
Organized by the Muslim Caucus at Harvard Kennedy School, the KSSG and Degree Programs, Eid was celebrated with much gusto, reverence and delicacies.
I had been looking forward to the evening ever since getting the email invitation (amongst a zillion other notes in my Inbox). The mystery and my relative ignorance about anything Islamic made me want to go there. Of course, I have Muslim friends back home. But the fact that I lived in a metropolitan city always made me celebrate every festival with equal excitement– be it Diwali, an Eid, or Christmas.
There were a lot more people than expected who attended the event – 160 instead of the 90 the Caucus ordered food for. The event was attended by members of the HKS Muslim community, members of the greater Boston Muslim community and non-Muslim HKSers and friends from around the world.
There are few things I believe that go a long way in bringing different people together – music, sports, a smile and of course food. The lip-smacking Middle-Eastern spread followed by dessert including honey-dripping dates (a typical Eid sweet) was gorged by everyone.
Kennedy School Professor Tarek Masoud opened the talk with his own epiphanies on why he celebrates Ramadan (also called Ramazan in some parts of the world), and how he was amazed at fellow Muslims, especially those in the Western world, who continued daily work at the office without even drinking a glass of water. Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset. Eid marks the end of Ramadan and breaking of the fast.
The high-point of the evening followed when Abigail Balbale, an Islamic Historian and lecturer in Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University, a Harvard alumnus and the guest speaker for the evening addressed the audience. She gave a historic perspective of how Christianity, Islam and Judaism have had a shared community – where people practiced and preached aspects of both communities. "The essence of Eid is to be a part of one community, come together and learn from one another,"she added. It brings multiple communities together – and we saw that, right in front of our own eyes inside of the Malkin Penthouse.
I spoke to Ateeq Noshar, MPA/ID '10 from Afghanistan, who seemed really excited about celebrating Eid. The chirpiness in his voice and enthusiasm in his eyes when he wished his friends and classmates "Eid Mubarak" could not be missed.
He reminisced about home and how children would flock to the streets wearing their finest caps while on their way to the mosque and how women would dress in their best whilst shopping on the streets. After their prayers, women and men would wish each other irrespective of whether they knew each other or not; whether they were "friends or enemies."
For Saima Bhatti, MC/MPA '10 who has been living in the United States since she was little, Eid signifies a time to come together, meet family and eat delicious food. She loves the fact that HKS is having this event since it highlights the cultural diversity at the school.
I found so much in common between what Tariq, Abigail, Ateeq and Saima felt - to all of them, Eid is a celebration of togetherness and bonding.
And it is at this point that I am reminded of Abigail concluding speech: "I hope that we can go forward from this moment (of celebrating Eid) and make our cultural and religious differences into a source of power; leave this institution (HKS) with enriched intellectualism gained from multicultural people around us."