First Muslim Info Booth at Latino Festival
LOS ANGELES, California (May 8, 2011) â€” Today the Annual Fiesta Broadway Festival, billed as the worldâ€™s largest Cinco de Mayo event, attracted half a million people who converged on 24 blocks in downtown Los Angeles. Over 50,000 people visited the first ever information booth on Islam organized by ICNA Southern California Chapterâ€™s outreach project WhyIslam.
The Latino population is growing fast in the United States, and even faster in California. “We do not want to lose the opportunity to reach out to them at this early stage,” said Amir Mertaban, Dawah Chair, ICNA Southern California Dawah Committee. Next year the team is planning to double the size of the booth and move to a main aisle location. It also intends to become a major participant of the event. “We were really lacking in catering to this emerging demographic, and we think todayâ€™s event will be our gateway to a lot more events among the Latino community,” he added.
Muhammad Hussain, the booth manager said “It was a great learning experience [for us] as we ventured into new crowd.” According to Hussain, Spanish speaking volunteers were much needed, as the majority of attendees did not speak English.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates a battle in which a Mexican army defeated the invading French forces in Mexico in 1862. Today it is largely viewed as a way to honor Latino heritage and culture and is celebrated in over 150 cities across the United States as the most important Latino festival.
Due to the large demand, the entire stock of 750 copies of the mainly Spanish translations of the Quran ran out at the booth.
The WhyIslam booth was one of the only two religious booths at the festival. “It was amazing to see so many Latino Muslims volunteering for this booth and reaching out to fellow Latinos,” said Mertaban. “Today I am going home happy [at being able] to reach out to the Latino community [at this scale],” said Mustafa, a Hispanic WhyIslam volunteer from Los Angeles.
The WhyIslam team will focus on Latino outreach in coming months, and eventually plans to bring the Fiesta Broadway booth to the level of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books effort, which has become one of the largest information booths on Islam nationwide. It also plans to launch a Spanish speaking team that will continue to host more such booths and also ensure that literature and distribution material is available in Spanish.
Mertaban has high hopes for this booth, hoping it will lead others to reach out to the Latino community. “We want this effort to be an example [for others] and motivate the rest of the nation to jump in.”
More than 6,000 brochures and introductory booklets on Islam were also distributed. Most of the volunteers at the booth were native Spanish speakers and the material distributed was mainly in Spanish.