American Islamic Congress Aims to Connect Cultures with Ramadan Celebration
On Saturday stop by the American Islamic Congress on Newbury Street to learn about and experience the Muslim culture.
The American Islamic Congress, which opened a center last November 2011 on Newbury Street, is celebrating the Ramadan season with a special lineup of Iftars - traditional sunset meals to break daytime fast – and hopes to bring the Boston community together on a cultural level.
Featuring traditional music and modern cuisine, the events began on Monday, July 30 by connecting Bostonians with roots in South Asia. The festivities continue:
- Sat, Aug 4 with the Iftar “Celebrate Heritage” that will spotlight the Bosnian community, and conclude on
- Tue, Aug 7 with a "Celebrate Diversity: Community Iftar" catered by some of Boston’s best vegan restaurants.
All faiths are welcome to attend – which is something the center would like to highlight.
“The idea was having a center so we could introduce different Muslim cultures in a different light,” the center’s director of operations, Koray Kotan, said soon after they opened on Newbury Street. “It’s not a religious organization – we do not focus on religion. Our focus is more on culture.”
For Kotan, a big part of the center’s job has been to quell negative stereotypes about Muslim-Americans in the United States, and to highlight the center’s focus on cultural education. The Ramadan celebration is no exception, and the center even hosts jazz concerts - something which Kotan says catches many people by surprise.
“We’re trying to change people’s perceptions, too, because not all of us fit in to the images you see on CNN or Fox or MSNBC,” he said. “The ideas come in and usually the images that you see on TV are either extreme running around, all covered. It’s not [that way]. Muslims are very diverse, as Christians or Jews.
“The stereotypes are automatic. It’s like ‘Oh, you’re a Muslim – you’re drinking?’ or ‘Why aren’t you covered? You’re Muslim.’”
Kotan came to Boston via Washington, D.C., - where the nonprofit civic organization is based - and is himself Turkish-American. The AIC has had a presence in Boston since 2001, and opened on office in 2004 on Huntington Ave. near Northeastern University, before moving to Newbury Street last year.
Through these events and the work that it does on a daily basis, the AIC continues to build on its work here in Boston, and Kotan believes the center has a bright future in New England.
“We’re coming from different backgrounds – we’re not all fundamentalists, we’re not all radicals,” Kotan said. “We’re actually different people from different areas. We don’t even practice the same way. If we can just get that message across, I think we will be successful in that sense.”