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The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

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Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui headlines school’s first Iftar celebration

Amplify Muslim Voices brings together Muslim community
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Ms. Chinman
Aleeza Riaz ’25 (left) leads a Q&A with Mayor Sumbal Siddiqui (right).

“I hope as we share our meal together this evening, we all reflect on the ways that we are working together in our communities to address injustice,” City of Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said as she opened her speech on April 5 during the school’s first celebration in honor of the Islamic tradition Iftar, the nightly dinner held to break fast during Ramadan. Organized by Amplify Muslim Voices (AMV), a student group led by Aleeza Riaz ’25, the Iftar celebration consisted of Mayor Siddiqui’s speech, followed by an Iftar dinner, and then a question-and-answer period with the mayor. It was attended by nearly 80 students, parents, and faculty.

Mayor Siddiqui accepted AMV’s invitation because attending the Iftar would serve as important outreach to the Muslim community in Cambridge, which she herself is a part of, the mayor said.

“Speaking at the Iftar and connecting with Cambridge students, teachers, and families was an opportunity to listen to their diverse stories and share ways my office can be of continued support,” she told The Vanguard later.

During her speech, the mayor cited her interest in public policy and desire to fight Islamophobia as impetuses for her 2016 mayoral run. She detailed how she met with discrimination during her campaign, on account of her Muslim identity, hoping that her story would resonate with fellow Muslim community members present at the event, she said.

“When I ran for office, people would see my name and assume I was a man, and say ignorant things about my last name,” she said. “It was clear that there were some people in Cambridge who were not ready for new voices, but I was not going to let them stop me from pushing our community to be better.”

Ahmad Khalid ’26, who attended the Iftar celebration with his family, said the mayor’s story inspired him.

“I didn’t know Mayor Siddiqui’s background and the struggles she had to face to get where she was,” Ahmad said. He was impressed with the mayor’s ability to speak of her struggles while making the occasional joke, he said.

Aleeza Riaz ’25 said she and AMV incorporated traditions associated with Iftar, such as the breaking of one’s fast by consuming dates and water, along with the appetizers from all over the world that the school’s families made. AMV also converted the Drama Room into a prayer space for those who wanted to pray after breaking their fast, in keeping with another Ramadan tradition.

“Community is extremely emphasized in Islam and throughout the month of Ramadan, so after a day of fasting, it is encouraging to come together with family and friends and celebrate our traditions, congregation, and religion.”

Having the Iftar event on-campus was crucial for the visibility of her club, Aleeza said.

“It was vital to have an Iftar dinner at the school so that the BB&N community could be aware of Ramadan and the traditions that come with an Iftar,” she said. “By opening the event up to all community members, there was the opportunity to form connections across campuses.”

The two weeks of organization consisted of contacting Mayor Siddiqui, promoting the event, and finding ways to incorporate the school’s families’ appetizers and desserts. Abina Nepal ‘15, the mayor’s executive assistant, passed along AMV’s invitation to Mayor Siddiqui for the Iftar event.

Hosting a community event was AMV’s primary objective this year, AMV Faculty Adviser Amani Abu Shakra said.

“One of the roles of the club is to amplify the Muslim voices and when you bring the community together, it does just that,” Ms. Abu Shakra said. “It allows students who identify as Muslim to feel like there is a space for them here.”

AMV member Alex Mohsen ’25 said the Muslim community is underrepresented at the school, so he was grateful to participate in an event which centered it.

“I only really know about four Muslim kids in the whole Upper School,” Alex said. “It’s really good that we have finally created our own community.”

Head of School Jennifer Price said she was amazed by how quickly AMV organized this event.

“A year ago, AMV was not even in existence, and the fact that within a year, Aleeza was able to bring people together and pull off an event like this, just really makes me proud of our students,” she said. Events like the Iftar elevate unsung communities, she said.

“The Iftar event is an example of leaning into amplifying a group in a space that we may not have done in the past, and we need to continue to think about groups within the BB&N community that may feel marginalized or not as understood,” she said. “It’s our job to make sure that we amplify those perspectives.”

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