Scores of Muslims gathered for a parade along Madison Avenue in Manhattan Sept. 24, to celebrate the 32nd Muslim Day Parade. For the first time in its history, a rabbi was its grand marshal: Marc Schneier, the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a group that works to bridge divides both religious and secular. Organizers wanted to send a message of inclusion, the New York Times reported.
The parade was founded as a means for Muslim New Yorkers to assert their place in this city, Imam Ali, the president of the Muslim Foundation of America and one of the organizers of the parade, told the Times. “This is a city of parades. We felt we must express ourselves as an integral part of the city. Parade is part of the New York identity,” Ali is quoted saying.
Over the years, the parade’s political significance has undergone several changes. In 2001, it was canceled after the Sept. 11 attacks but the year after that, it marched with thin crowds as anxious past participants stayed home at the height of Islamophobia.
But today, when every group in the nation seems to be under attack, the parade transformed into a solidarity march and the decision to have Rabbi Schneier as grand marshal came after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Ali indicated. “Anti-Semitism is not his fight alone; it is mine, too. Islamophobia is not my fight alone; it is his, too. We must fight for one another,” Imam Ali said, referring to the rabbi.
Floats featured dancers and sparkly replicas of the Dome of the Rock, the central mosque in Jerusalem. A contingent of Muslim officers from the New York Police Department, also marched in formation in the parade, according to the report. Apart from a few protesters, the parade appears to have gone peacefully.
“This can serve as a wonderful paradigm,” Rabbi Schneier is quoted saying. This February Schneier led a rally in Times Square following President Trump’s Muslim travel ban, saying “Today I am a Muslim Too.”
Some women in colorful hijabs gathered on 38th Street holding American flags. “To see the Muslims like this in the middle of the street here, that means Muslims have some consideration, that we are being given a chance. That’s New York showing us a little bit that Muslims have a right, just like other people,” one of the attendees in town for the parade, Diakita Amadou told the Times. The parade began after afternoon prayers were offered by the crowd.