Young Muslims Gather at Amusement Park to Emphasize Embrace of American Values, Diversity -- and Fun

August 28, 2006

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

On August 28, 2006 the San Francisco Chronicle reported, "Deliberately forgoing more traditional gathering spots, thousands of Muslims from across Northern California gathered Sunday under a roaring roller coaster. Holding the second annual Muslim Unity Day at Paramount's Great America amusement park in Santa Clara was fitting, said Resha Yunus, 46, of Fremont, who sat behind a booth for her nonprofit group Semah, which works to prevent domestic violence in the Muslim community. 'You can be a good Muslim but still ride the roller coaster,' she said with a laugh. Part of the point of the event -- which featured traditional food and prayer services and omitted politics -- was to emphasize the desire of American Muslims to live by their faith while fully embracing the United States. Yunus was one of many guests who talked about how important it was for Muslims, especially younger ones who grew up in the United States, to celebrate their shared identity at a difficult time. 'We have a lot of roles to play,' said Rima Chaudry, a 23-year-old San Francisco resident who has performed as a spoken-word artist in an effort to break down stereotypes about Muslim and Middle Eastern communities. 'We're very American, we have strong ties to our families' homelands, and we're Muslim. How do we play all these roles?' she asked. 'There hasn't been a strong Muslim American identity formed yet, but it's happening with this younger generation.' Young people created the event, said organizer Irfan Rydhan, a 31-year-old board member at the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose. He said the idea emerged, in part, out of frustration that tension between Sunni and Shiite Muslims was dominating news about the Middle East. The theological division is more muted in the Bay Area, though mosques generally serve either one side or the other."