LONDON: The biggest shopping mall in the UK hosts a two-day community event designed to bring people of all cultures together to celebrate the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr holiday, and cash in on the “Ramadan economy,” organizers said.
The annual London Eid Festival was established by Westfield London four years ago and has “grown exponentially due to the demand and population growth but also due to the halal economy,” Waleed Jahangir, the festival’s event director, told Arab News.
Bosses at the mall “recognize the economic spend after Ramadan and they really want to cash in on that,” he added.
Introduced in 2018, the festival is organized by the mall in partnership with high-end department store John Lewis. Because the first day of Eid fell on Monday, May 2, this year, the event took place last weekend so that it would be easier for families to attend.
Muslims celebrate Eid twice a year: The lesser eid, Eid Al-Fitr, takes place at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, while the greater eid, Eid Al-Adha, is celebrated after the annual Hajj pilgrimage. During the Eid holidays, people traditionally treat themselves to new clothes, buy gifts for children and go out for family meals.
“It is extremely important for the Muslim community to gather in places such as Westfield to show the positive aspects of Eid, instead of showing all of the so-called negative aspects (of Islam) that we see on the news,” said Jahangir.
“We really wanted to highlight all the great aspects of the culture and the community and provide that platform for other communities to come and share.”
He added that organizers introduced the festival so that Muslims could provide a respectful and welcoming celebration for people from all communities.
“As Muslims, we are respectful of all communities and welcoming to all, and that is what, fundamentally, we wanted to provide as an event,” Jahangir said.
This year’s festival featured live entertainment, musical performances, a fashion show staged by John Lewis, an Islamic art gallery, a variety of food stalls, and a range of children’s activities for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
French Moroccan hijabi Yasmina Salman, who visited the festival with her Iraqi husband and their two children, said it was “beautiful” to see so many people celebrate Islamic culture. She was especially pleased that the John Lewis fashion show featured models wearing the hijab, and said it was nice to see that people are “finally appreciating diversity and acceptance.”
“It’s very good, especially, for my children to be able to love their country and be proud to be British, but Muslim-British — and I feel like both of those; the culture and the Islamic values can work together in harmony,” she said.
Emirati company Camelicious, which produces camel-milk products, said it has taken part in the festival since its inception because it recognizes the importance of the holiday to Muslims.
“This celebration is part of our community and we are 100 percent interested in it,” said Bassam Alsaadi, sales director at Damasgate, which distributes Camelicious products in the UK.
“The people, they love it, (and the event) is important for us, to be honest, because after fasting (during Ramadan) we need to celebrate and this is the best place we can gather and celebrate.”