Religious festival sets benchmark for peace, love and harmony across city

Eid celebration at Millhouses Park: Waheed Rehman and 9 month old daughter Sumayyali Rehman
Eid celebration at Millhouses Park: Waheed Rehman and 9 month old daughter Sumayyali Rehman

Brother and sister Gulfraz Saddique and Fazeelat Akhtar were stationed at the entrance to Sheffield’s biggest ever community Eid celebration last Saturday, as streams of Muslims and non-Muslims joined the celebration at the end of the month of Ramadan.

“The team have been promoting the event for the last six months and when they said they were expecting 8,000 or more I was a bit sceptical really,” said Fazeelat on Saturday afternoon.

“In fact they say we’ve had 10,000 already and there are more on their way, so I’m really pleased.”

“I had the impression that the religion of Islam had a negative view within the city but talking to people here I can see that’s wrong,” said Gulfraz.

“We’ve had people from all communities, from every race creed and colour, so I’m overjoyed it’s been such a resounding success.”

The Eid in the Park celebration was organised by the Sheffield Heritage Foundation, a small group of Sheffield Muslims who are recent converts to the faith. Organisers hope the day’s success means it could become an annual event in future, perhaps in different city parks.

“If you’re a convert to Islam you often have no-one in your family to celebrate with,” said Lisa Sultani, from the Sheffield Heritage Foundation. “So we have organised get-togethers ourselves, but last December we held a fund-raising dinner to raise funds for an Eid celebration for all the community, to bring people of different backgrounds together.”

The event on Saturday attracted people from all over the city and beyond, with visitors from Manchester, Leeds, Egypt, India and Africa in Millhouses Park. The event included a food bazaar, charity stalls, fairground rides and the chance to try out football, tennis and boxing courtesy of the Sporting Equals organisation, who promote ethnic diversity in sport.

“People from Muslim and other communities often want to get involved in sport, but don’t know how, so we’re here to help,” said Nik Trivedi from Sporting Equals, adding that Eid celebrations do not traditionally include sport, but after discussions with Sport England, Sporting Equals decided to trial the scheme at Sheffield’s Eid festival.

“We’re breaking new ground here in Sheffield, and we’ve had parents and grandparents playing table tennis and even donning boxing gloves to have a go.”

Eid is declared as soon as the moon is sighted after Ramadan, and lasts from one to three days.

“It’s a bit like Christmas, with families and friends celebrating and eating together,” said Lisa Sultani.

Lisa said that Eid is also about thanking God after the 30 days of fasting during Ramadan. “When you’re fasting you realise that you may not have had food for 18 hrs but you think about all those people who are not eating for days or weeks. Ramadan is supposed to make you charitable in your heart.”

Muhammad Mashood, a lifelong Sheffield Muslim, helped the foundation members with the event, and said the numbers attending showed there’s a need for a large Eid festival in Sheffield.

“The adverts on buses and billboards were encouraging people to come and see that a Muslim is exactly the same as the person sat next to you on the bus. You’re a human, I’m a human, we may worship in different ways and have different backgrounds, but we both like to eat food, we like to have fun in the park, we both like rollercoaster rides.”

Gulfraz Saddique and Fazeelat Akhtar said they were very proud to be part of Yorkshire’s biggest Eid celebration, in the park they both played in as children.

“The true meaning of Islam is about peace and love and harmony,” said Fazeelat. “We hope this festival is the start of many more to come.”