Kirk Dameron grew up around diversity, but not Muslims.
“I grew up in the inner city with blacks and Hispanics,” Dameron said. “Before coming to graduate school, I wasn’t around Islamic students.”
Dameron, along with about 200 others, learned more about Muslims at the 16th Annual Islamic Cultural Night on Friday evening to celebrate Ramadan.
“Since 9/11 there have been a lot of misconceptions about the Muslim culture,” said Mohamad Kalaaji, a member of the Muslim Student Association for three years. “We want to help show our culture is different and bring people together.”
Dameron, an economics graduate student, said it was his first time attending the cultural night. He called it “a cross-pollination of cultures.”
The event featured an explanation of Ramadan, the religious holiday when Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset, which began Sept. 24. Other activities included speeches from “Muslim Reverts,” a children’s presentation, authentic cuisine and a question and answer session.
Apartment Life, in conjunction with MSA, held the event.
Students were not the only ones attending the celebration. Elder Zachary Campbell, a Mormon from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, came to the dinner.
“Events like these make people more open-minded about what others believe,” said Campbell, a missionary. “People are often scared of what they don’t know.”
Zaki Safar, MSA president, said the cultural event was designed to foster “a love between people.”
Sahar Babak, a senior accounting major and program coordinator, lived in Afghanistan and Pakistan before coming to America when she was 7.
“Fort Collins is not very diverse, but it is very accepting of diversity,” she said. “Every group has their good and bad apples.”
She added that media sometimes have the tendency to create barriers among people and education is the only way to break those barriers. Babak emphasized that cultural programs make it easier for people to relate to one another.
“A lot of the time, the media pinpoints the bad,” she said. “They focus on the negative rather than the positive. They look only at the exceptions.”
Staff writer Amy Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.