I attended the Mayor of London’s annual Eid in the Square celebration in Trafalgar Square last weekend. It was a joyous riot of colour and noise, and the delicious smells lingering around from the edge towards thousands of people watching the activities on the main stage.
The moon was visible overhead in the clear blue sky, and I really enjoyed seeing lots of my fellow Londoners, mostly from the capital’s diverse Muslim community, celebrating and sharing their culture as the spring sun shone down on us.
The immersive nature of this family-friendly experience was fantastic. The large crowds had plenty to enjoy, from the live music and dance on show, to the smell of smoke drifting across from the food stalls tempting us to try a host of delicious cuisines, and intriguing tents on the fringes of the square beckoning us in with an rich array of activities on offer, including one where authors were doing readings of their books to children.
Seeing Muslim girls being invited to try out fencing, alongside the valuable charity work Islamic Relief does all around the world, and Everyday Muslim’s brilliant photography exhibition capturing the community in London over the decades, alongside the Association of Muslim Police gave me hope that all visitors to this event will be able to see the vibrant and vital role Muslims play in our society and culture. That they share and epitomise key “British” values, such as tolerance and respect of others, support for the rule of law and charitable causes.
For me, personally, the food stalls were all mouth-wateringly good and only the length of the queues kept me from having more than one lunch. There were Halal German sausages, there were spicy curries and sweet treats, there was Malaysian food on one stall and ice cream on another.
In the end, after much deliberation and with a heavy heart that I was only having one, I had my first try of Uzbeki food and I was not disappointed. I wish I had got there early enough to have a mixed lamb and chicken but, alas, the lamb had run out. This was an amazingly well-balanced dish of nicely spiced, barbecued, smoky chicken on some spicy rice with a soothing yogurt on the side.
The other thing that struck me was the lack of a visible Turkish presence at Eid in the Square. Muslims from all over the world were represented, but for a group with such a large community in London and such an accepted part of Muslim and British life, from Turkish barbers to kebab and coffee shops, especially along Green Lanes, I thought it sad the Turks were missing in action.
Where were the Turkish food stalls, the musicians, and stalls showcasing Turkish culture like its hit TV dramas Magnificent Century and Resurrection Ertugrul, or its vibrant modest fashion industry?
Eid in the Square is an ideal platform to showcase all the amazing talent the Turkish community have to offer, both to the wider Muslim community as well as the non-Muslim residents of London. This was a missed opportunity and I hope that it will be grabbed with both hands next year.
Waltham Forest resident Arran Angus is a communications consultant by profession working closely with British Muslims and is also a campaigner for Liberal Democrats