Festival makes cultural connections

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Children at the Naugatuck Cultural Council’s Eid al-Adha Celebration Festival Sunday, from left, Zarish Mehboob, 11, Dayan Mehboob, 4, Sarabeel Binzahid, 11, and Julie Piedermann, 10, are dressed in traditional clothing. -PAUL SINGLEY, REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Children at the Naugatuck Cultural Council’s Eid al-Adha Celebration Festival Sunday, from left, Zarish Mehboob, 11, Dayan Mehboob, 4, Sarabeel Binzahid, 11, and Julie Piedermann, 10, are dressed in traditional clothing. -PAUL SINGLEY, REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — As Naugatuck continues to become a more ethnically and religiously diverse community, the Naugatuck Cultural Council continues to seek ways to build camaraderie among community members.

On Sunday, the council organized the second annual Eid al-Adha Celebration Festival on the Naugatuck Green. The event, attended by more than 200 people, celebrated the more important holidays of the Muslim faith, including the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son for God.

The event was held for seven hours on the Green Sunday afternoon and while it was a majority Muslim crowd, people from all backgrounds attended. That was the goal, said Sandra Heller, chair of the Naugatuck Cultural Council.

Standing with fellow council member Shagufta Zahid, the chief festival organizer, Heller said the event is an opportunity to bring people together and make connections between various community groups.

“It’s cultural awareness,” Heller said. “I may not ever talk to Shagufta, and I might have things I think about her and vice versa, but when we work together and get to know each other through events like this, that kind of stereotype of someone with a different background than you tends to go away.”

At the event, traditional food from Pakistan and Bangladesh was served and goods made by people from a variety of Middle Eastern countries was shown and sold. People from a variety of different cultures danced to music popular in Pakistan.

Zahid said the objective is for people to focus on one community and to educate others about Muslim culture, while giving everyone an opportunity to gain a better understanding about each other.

Kalim Jan of Trumbull works at Ion Bank in Naugatuck and moved from Pakistan to Connecticut to get his master’s degree at the University of Bridgeport. On Sunday, he praised the Naugatuck community for its cultural diversity.

“I think we learn from each other’s cultures,” Jan said. “The way we eat, the way we dress. It’s totally wonderful.”

Naugatuck Board of Education Chairman Dave Heller, husband of Sandra Heller, said he believes the educational system needs to improve its ability to connect with the various cultures in Naugatuck.

“Festivals and events such as this enable us to build connections and to realize the power of connections in order to improve the lives of our children and the residents of our community,” he said.

To get involved in the Naugatuck Cultural Council, contact Sandra Heller at sphdmh@aol.com.