By Aisha Yaqoob
ATLANTA – The Atlanta Muslim community hosted a one of a kind event this past Saturday. On May 9th, leaders from two masajid, Masjid Omar bin Abdul Aziz in Norcross, GA and Madina Institute, USA in Duluth, GA came together to host a picnic for community members in the greater Gwinnett County area.
Attended by over 100 people from all over the metro area, this picnic served the purpose of bridging the gap between these two communities. Although located less than 6 miles apart, these two masajid have not previously collaborated on an event of this scale. Among the attendees were families and young professionals — a group that often attends the Madina Institute.
In an effort to further establish a relationship with the Muslim community, Mayor Johnny Crist of Lilburn was invited to speak at the picnic. Having previously spoken to the local Islamic school, Al-Falah Academy, Mayor Crist has made strides to connect with leaders in the Gwinnett Muslim community including one of the event organizers, Asma Elhuni.
His talk echoed the need to further develop relationships and become active citizens of communities. He spoke of the need to move past a consumer type relationship, and towards a relationship of activism that engages and takes pride in the community. Mayor Crist encouraged attendees to become “lovers of cities” and work towards relationships that further respect and friendship.
After his talk, the mayor stayed at the picnic to talk one-on-one with different members of the Muslim community. He noted that it felt like home; like any other picnic that he would attend with friends and family. In his conversations, he emphasized the commonalities he sees in the Muslim community and outside. Mayor Crist’s talk and presence was well-received by the Muslim community, some of whom had previously expressed feeling alienated from their non-Muslim counterparts.
“You might live next to someone who doesn’t look like you, doesn’t act like you, doesn’t have the same values as you and I just wanted to lift this whole idea that we’re all in this together” the mayor exclaimed. Organizers of this event hope that Muslims continue to engage local elected officials and become part of their communities.
Aisha Yaqoob is a graduate student at The University of Georgia pursuing her Masters of Public Administration & Policy. She is an active member of the Atlanta Muslim community through various local and national organizations.