Information about Islam & Muslim Cultures Presented at California State Fair
By Shane Yoder
WhyIslam Sacramento Chapter
Information booth of the Sacramento Chapter of ICNA and its 877-WHY-ISLAM
project at the California State Fair
Sacramento, CA: The Sacramento Chapter of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and its 877-WHY-ISLAM project hosted an information booth at the California State Fair from August 15th until September 1st. They handed out free Qur'ans, brochures and answered questions about Islam. The mission of the project was to encourage people to search for unbiased information on Islam and to promote understanding and dialog between people of different faiths.
WhyIslam volunteers were there to answer all questions regarding Islam, its teachings and help clear up any misconceptions. WhyIslam also highlighted the cultural diversity of Muslims, emphasizing the fact that there are significant populations of Muslims in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. We made it clear that Muslims in all of these regions are bound together by Islam yet celebrate their own unique customs and cultures adding to the diversity and multiculturalism inherent in Islam.
The California State Fair had close to one million visitors during the course of its 18-day run. We estimate that we had approximately 2,000 visitors to our booth, gave out over 5,500 brochures on important issues relating to Islam and Muslims, and handed out over 300 Qur'ans.
We also recorded hundreds of contacts for follow-up dawah as many visitors wanted us to give a presentation at their place of worship, receive a Qur'an in a different language or just continue the conversation, and requested more information about Islam. Through much positive press we had hundreds of people who came to the booth and thanked us for being there. They were genuinely grateful for the opportunity to meet a Muslim and ask the questions that they may have had. Many people in America are hungry for information about Islam and we were there to answer their questions and provide them with quality materials about Islam and Muslims.
Due to the presence of much negativity and Islamophobia, the general public has the daunting task of sifting through uninformed and biased sources before they can find reliable outlets. Keeping this in mind, now more than ever, incorporating dawah into our deen is vital to combat the Islamophobia and ignorance that is all too common in the American dialog on Islam and Muslims. It's the duty of every Muslim to give dawah and WhyIslam provides the material support, organizational structure and training that allow all Muslims, no matter what their level of knowledge about Islam, to participate in rewarding dawah activities in America. WhyIslam has a successful track record of dawah projects across the country using their comprehensive system of dawah which includes, to name a few, New York subway advertisements, Seattle bus advertisements, Billboards in Chicago and the dawah booth at the California State Fair. By being in the public eye, representing Islam and Muslims, we are building bridges with the community and helping to reach out and change people’s preconceived notions about Islam and Muslims, Insha'Allah.
By providing the public an opportunity to come interact with Muslims and having a dawah booth at the California State Fair we weren't sure what the response would be. We were pleasantly surprised to receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from visitors to the booth. There were many wonderful conversations and dawah experiences during the fair. One Catholic woman broke down in tears after a passage from Surah Maryam was read out to her. A young Latino found Islam to be the answer he was looking for. A woman who recently left the Mormon Church was seeking answers and she found them in Islam. A young Israeli woman who was here as a student had nothing but positive things to say about the booth, was interested in our personal perspectives on Islam, and spoke of interfaith dialog and working towards a common goal of peace. The Sacramento chapter of WhyIslam will be following up with these specific individuals as well as the hundreds of other visitors who gave us their contact information and were looking forward to a personal followup with a member of our team.
Although the Sacramento chapter of WhyIslam is a relatively young chapter we took on this opportunity to set our sights high and through the blessing of Allah(SWT) with teamwork, common objectives and perseverance we were about to achieve our goal. We would not have been able to achieve this goal were it not for the wonderful support from the Sacramento Valley community. This project might not have been a reality were it not for the support of the Mosques in Sacramento and the greater Sacramento area, the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations (COSVIO), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS) and all else who supported us in our dawah endeavors. Finally, we must thank the hardworking volunteers, including the WhyIslam Sacramento Chapter Shura, who manned the dawah booth and answered questions and represented Islam at the California State Fair.
Islam, the religion of approximately 7 million Americans, promotes peace, prayer, humility as well as social, communal and family values.