Sunday marked New York’s 32nd annual Muslim Day Parade.
Mosques from across the city guided faith-themed floats and held flags from various Muslim countries as they walked down Manhattan’s busy Madison Avenue.
However, this year’s march had a much more cohesive and solemn message than previous years, serving in part to raise awareness in the alleged genocide of Burma’s Rohingya Muslim population. The Rohingya have been referred to by the United Nations as one of the world’s most persecuted group.
Members of all represented nationalities, neighborhoods, and organizations stood together in solidarity for the Rohingya Muslims, holding signs that read “Stop Genocide” and depicted harrowing images of the recent violence against the Rohingya in Burma. In addition to traditional Islamic chants, marchers loudly yelled “Stop killing Rohingya Muslims!” as they walked through the city.
The parade ran about twelve blocks, and ended near Madison Square Park where the Muslim Day Festival took place. The president of the Muslim Foundation of America, Imam Shamsi Ali, spoke to the crowd, urging them to unite against hate and speak out for all Muslim communities facing adversity and harassment, especially the Rohingya.
The area’s local congresswoman, Carolyn Maloney was also present, and reminded the crowd to stay positive and unified in the face of prejudice. This year also marked the first year that the event was lead by a Jewish Rabbi. Rabbi Marc Schneier greeted parade goers and told his own stories of overcoming cultural divides in the name of community.
Food stands with traditional cuisine from the represented countries, like Indonesia and Turkey, lined one side of the blocked off road, while merchants laid out a variety of traditional Middle Eastern dress and jewelry on the other. Security efforts were apparent as officers of the New York Police Department patrolled the area, armed with assault rifles and canine units.
The event is organized each year by the Muslim Foundation of America, and serves to bring Muslim communities together and promote awareness on Muslim issues.