Madina Institute | Duluth | 24 miles northeast of Atlanta
It’s cold outside on Visit a Mosque Day. Men wear thobes and parkas, while women wear coats and abayas. Shoes are placed in cubbies outside the door. Inside, it’s warm and delicious-smelling. Umber Hanief, a program director at Gwinnett Technical College, has brought food for newcomers, who have traveled from Buckhead, Decatur, and places between. Prompted by the attacks in Paris and California and the anti-Islam furor that followed, the Atlanta Muslim community organized the event with the support of 16 local mosques. “Originally,” Hanief says, “we were just gonna get packaged things. We thought, People won’t want buffet-style. Then a couple people in our group told us that their friends at the churches are expecting ethnic foods. So we’re like, Oh no! What do we do? The hummus was easy, so we made that; it’s becoming very popular in America. A lot of people know about samosas—deep-fried, everyone likes that. The biryani we weren’t expecting. We were afraid some things would be a little spicy.” Nearby, Ethan Rubenstein digs in. “My favorite is the baklava!” says the 12-year-old from Johns Creek. His aunt, Leanne Rubenstein, who is executive director of a nonprofit called Compassionate Atlanta, tries on a hijab. Ethan gets his name written in Islamic calligraphy at a nearby table staffed by two Muslim women. “He’s very open-minded,” Rubenstein says. “He knows a lot, reads a lot. I hope that together we can educate our friends and family about what Islam is all about. I think there’s a lot of misinformation and Islamophobia. Hearing things like, ‘Muslims shouldn’t come into the country,’ this has happened to the Jewish people!” A man walks up to a microphone: “It’s just poetry,” he says to the crowd of white and brown faces, as two young Muslim men prepare to recite ancient songs of peace in English and Arabic. “Please don’t be alarmed.”
This article originally appeared in our April 2016 issue.