Area Muslims celebrate culture with Springfield community

Comedian and storyteller Aman Ali was the keynote speaker at Springfield’s Islamic Day of Ohio event, talking about growing up as a non-white kid in Reynoldsburg, Ohio and his pride in the culture. Photo by Brett Turner
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Comedian and storyteller Aman Ali was the keynote speaker at Springfield’s Islamic Day of Ohio event, talking about growing up as a non-white kid in Reynoldsburg, Ohio and his pride in the culture. Photo by Brett Turner

The Miami Valley Islamic Association marked the 32nd annual Islamic Day of Ohio on Saturday by sharing it with the Springfield Community.

The local event, held at the Derby Banquet Hall at Windy Knoll Golf Club, was a chance for Muslims to give back by recognizing a guest of honor, presenting awards to community heroes and presenting a keynote speaker, who entertained with comedy and stories and expressed pride in his faith.

Special posters were spread around the hall with information for visitors to learn more about the Islamic culture and its values.

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The evening’s guest of honor, former Springfield-area Congressman Dave Hobson, was a state senator when then Gov. Richard Celeste instituted Islamic Day of Ohio.

“What a wonderful program. Thank you for coming together and caring about this community,” he told the crowd. “Springfield is a wonderful place to live. The best of the Midwest is in a town like Springfield.”

Hobson, who spends about half of the year here, praised the city’s inclusiveness and suggested he’d like to see more Muslim community members join service organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis or the Lions Club that could benefit from their help.

Keynote speaker Aman Ali, a comedian and storyteller, talked about what it was like for him to be the only child of color in his own community of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, just outside Columbus.

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Ali joked he was always in the awkward position of being either the American Indian Squanto or Martin Luther King at school plays and how he’d have to repurpose Christmas songs to fit a Muslim kid’s holiday.

After a career in journalism working at the Akron Beacon Journal and Newsweek, Ali dreamed of doing comedy and has opened for Dave Chappelle and traveled the world.

“Laughter is a beautiful way to bring people together,” he said.

Ali later said he is proud to be from Ohio, even if it means having to educate people in New York, where he now lives, it’s not just a land filled with cows. And he’s glad children of color are getting to see others like themselves on television and in movies, something he didn’t have growing up.

“We can all benefit to learn,” he said.

The Community Hero Awards are a way for the Muslim community to give back to those who serve it. Mayor Warren Copeland presented the awards and recalled after Sept. 11, 2001 the local Muslim community reaching out to promote understanding.

“It’s been a great pleasure to know you and I look forward to keep working with you,” he said.

Those receiving the community hero awards included Clark County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matthew Yates, Officer of the Year; Springfield Police Division Lt. Allison Elliot, Officer of the Year; Josh Cumston, Firefighter/Paramedic of the Year; Crystal Knasel, Nurse of the Year; Eric Kesson, Apprentice of the Year; and Daniel Metzger, Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Akber Mohammed, who helped organize Saturday’s event, said he was pleased with Saturday’s attendance and hoped it helped create even better community relations. He was also glad several younger Muslim Community members helped run the event, introducing speakers and community heroes.

Pastor Carl Ruby of Central Christian Church was happy to support the event as he his church have gotten support of and cooperation from the Muslim community on several occasions.

“I can’t imagine Springfield without our Muslim community and all they add to our community. I’m proud to call them neighbors and friends,” Ruby said.

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