By Mawa Iqbal, 23News Reporter

The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Missouri, MU’s Muslim Student Organization and the Islamic Center of Central Missouri co-hosted an all-day, cultural food festival on Sunday, Oct. 15.

The event was held at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri.

Columbia’s Great Muslim Food Festival was open to people of all faiths and backgrounds. It highlighted dishes from an array of Muslim-majority countries. Festival attendees had the opportunity to enjoy hummus, pita bread, falafel and various grilled meats on yellow jasmine rice.

The festival also featured inflatable bounce houses, balloon-making and face-painting booths for the younger children.

Aside from the food and kid-friendly activities, the Islamic Center offered hourly tours of the mosque and PowerPoint presentations on the basics of Islam. Attendees were free to ask members of the ICCM questions about the faith and pick up free copies of the Qur’an, as well as other informational pamphlets.

The goal of the festival was to not only introduce Columbia residents to traditional Islamic food, but to also introduce a side of Islam that isn’t always portrayed by the media, said Faizan Syed, executive director of CAIR-MO. He cited the current administration in office as the primary reason for the public’s misconceptions.

“We really need to do more to start educating people about the Muslim community, not only about that we pray and fast,” Syed said. “But beyond that, that we are people who represent a diverse group of voices and people all around the world.”

One of the best ways to accomplish that goal, Syed said, is to use the “international language of food.” Syed saw this when he hosted a similar festival in St. Louis on Sunday, Aug. 13. He believes that food is a language everybody knows and loves to communicate in.

Syed referenced the tradition of people breaking bread as a way of people getting to know each other.

“Only way to combat hate is through love, and the closest way to a person’s heart is through food,” Syed said.

Many Columbia natives who attended the event echoed a similar sentiment.

“It’s always important to try to establish an understanding between different cultures and different religions,” former school teacher and Columbia resident Pamela Jones, said. “If we could just get to that place, we probably could end a lot of wars.”

This festival is not the only opportunity for Columbia residents to learn about and experience Islamic tradition. Syed encourages those willing to learn more to call the ICCM and visit fellow Muslim neighbors at the mosque.

“As the years go by, whether we like it or not, hatred in this country is at an all-time high,” Syed said. “The best way to build bridges requires actually building bridges. And the best way to do that is to show up, get out there and get active.”

Edited by Isabel Lohman |

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