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Sharing of faith


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POSTED: Friday, September 25, 2009

Dina Kansowah wore henna ink painted onto her right hand yesterday as part of the festivities at the Islam Day Festival at Ala Moana Beach Park.

“;I get a chance to have fun and be able to be free,”; she said. While henna is a cultural tradition in Eastern parts of the world, many of those areas have large Muslim populations.

Hundreds turned out yesterday for the festival on Hawaii's first Islam Day. The state Legislature declared Sept. 24 Islam Day despite opposition from some who argued that a small percent of radical Muslims advocate terror on the civilized world or that there is no special day recognizing Christianity.

Kansowah, a sixth-grader at Benjamin Parker Elementary in Kaneohe who was born in Egypt, sees Islam Day as a bridge between people of different religions.

“;You could have friends with the other people that aren't Muslim,”; she said. “;It feels good to be a Muslim.”;

There are about 4,500 Muslims on Oahu, according to the Muslim Association of Hawaii, which organized yesterday's event. The event included a comedy skit, food such as hot dogs and French crepes, and a panel discussion of different religions coexisting.

“;I hope that it's (Islam Day) going to be all over America, not just Hawaii,”; said Dina's mother, Rabab Kansowah, “;so all the people can know about Islam.”;

The event brought Muslims and non-Muslims together, giving Muslims a chance to share their culture with others.

Akram Khalil, 61, treasurer of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, said the theme of the event was restocking the Hawaii Foodbank, showing the minority group in Hawaii is a contributor to society.

“;We're all human beings,”; said Khalil, a banker from Afghanistan. “;We've got to find a way to live together.”;

“;The whole nine years of my life, I never had an Islam Day,”; said Nizar Benotmane, a fourth-grader at Kainalu Elementary School in Kailua. “;It's like a big festival of my religion. It makes me feel special.”;

Bouchra Benotmane, Nizar's mother, who came with her two children, was not concerned about some opposition to Islam Day she saw online.

“;They can say whatever they want,”; she said, wearing a blue gossamer “;hijab,”; or head scarf. “;That's what makes America great.”;