On Friday night, a fusion of food, dance and religious harmony took over the Sadler Center to celebrate the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha.
The College of William and Mary’s Muslim Student Association hosted the celebratory banquet, which was attended by over 150 students, faculty and community members. The event commemorated the holiday that marks the end of Hajj, the annual journey made by Muslims to Mecca as a sacrifice to God. Two student dance groups, Haasya and Dhamaal Bhangra, performed and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Dr. Ogunnaike Oludamini spoke.
“Hajj is the pilgrimage where Muslims from all over the world come together, from different ethnic backgrounds, speaking different languages, of all different ages,” Abdelrahman Aboulatta ’18, president of the MSA, said. “So I think [this event] embodies that in the sense that this isn’t just for the Muslim Student Association, it’s for the entire campus because the point is to bring everyone together.”
Aboulatta, who joined the MSA his freshman year, said the club provided him with an opportunity to meet other students who were members of the Muslim faith.
“I came from a school where I was the only Muslim and didn’t really have that community,” Aboulatta said. “Being president, what I like most is creating an environment for the new freshmen, having that safe space where they can come make new friends and socialize, learn about the religion, and just have somewhere that they can always come back to.”
While many of the attendees were members of the MSA, other clubs on campus encouraged their members to attend the Eid festivities.
Sadie Meadows, a senior involved with the Wesley Foundation, the United Methodist campus ministry, said the event was an opportunity to build connections with other religious groups at the College.
“We have made it our particular mission to reach out to all the other faith groups on campus and to be as inclusive as possible to all groups that we can think of,” Meadows said.
Freshman Hana Liebman, also a member of the Wesley Foundation, said he was thankful for the chance to be exposed to a new religion and to hear from an esteemed voice in the College’s Muslim community, Dr. Ogunnaike Oludamini.
“As someone who is not very familiar with the Muslim holidays, it was great to hear about it from someone who is Muslim,” Liebman said. “[Oludamini] spoke about it with such dignity and grace and beauty. It was really lovely.”
Oludamini’s speech revolved around Eid al-Adha’s theme of letting go of the physical in order to show reverence to God.
“The holiday celebrates the sacrifice that Ibrahim or Abraham was about to make of his son. I always kinda wonder ‘cause that seems like a horrible thing to do, to sacrifice your son,” Oludamini, who brought his young son with him to the celebration, said.
The holiday is about giving up one’s physical possessions to God, according to Oludamini. By giving up those things, he said, one will inevitably find a new appreciation for their existence.
“You take your love for them not separate from your love for God, but integrate them into the same thing,” Oludamini said.
Oludamini, who was born in Nigeria, said that he grew up celebrating holidays associated with many different religions. This degree of unity is one that he said he is excited to see in the College community.
“Where I’m from in Nigeria, everyone celebrates everything. Christians celebrate Eid and Muslims go to Christmas celebrations, so I think that’s a good way for us to celebrate, all together,” Oludamini said.
Freshman Xiaoshu Lin, a Chinese foreign exchange student, said she was fascinated with the same unification that Oludamini observed. Lin, who attended the event after seeing it listed in the weekly Student Happenings email, was surprised by the diversity of those in attendance.
“Back in my home, I feel like Islam is an exclusive religion; it’s not that inclusive. In this association, on this campus, in that room, the ambience is totally different,” Lin said. “I was quite surprised when I saw people of different races, of different colors on the same stage. I was delighted to see that.”