The Khoja Heritage Festival took place at The Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Birmingham on Saturday 8th February 2020. The programme started with delicious Breakfast comprising of Mandazi, Barazi and Rotli, appreciating our Indian and East African Heritage.
Br Chaik Moussabay, Lead of CoEJ Khoja Heritage Project was the MC (Master of Ceremony) for the day. Being a fluent Gujarati and French speaker, his entire presentation was done in Gujarati, celebrating our Mother Tongue and providing an international flavour to this special event.
The programme began with a beautiful recitation of the Holy Quran by Br. Jamil Muhammad Hussein.
The opening ceremony was conducted by Br Mohamedriyaz Sachedina, Vice president of KSIMC of Birmingham and Br Mahmood Hooda, Vice President of CoEJ.
Five Khoja Jamaats in Europe delivered presentations capturing their history. These included: Paris North, Milton Keynes, Leicester, Peterborough and Birmingham Jamaat. These presentations enlightened us with tremendous information highlighting the origins of these Jamaats and commonality amongst all was that their inception was around 1972.
Following on Br Muntazir Jaffer a youth from Birmingham delivered an engaging speech on the “lessons learnt from pioneers in recent history”. He shared with us his experience staying with the pioneers of our community.
The programme continued with Sr Shahida Dharamshi and Br Kazim Sajan sharing their wonderful experiences at the Khoja Heritage Tour they attended earlier in January 2020. These two experiences marked the end of the morning programme which was filled with exciting and informative discoveries from our history.
This was followed with a break for congregational Zohrain Salaat followed by delicious lunch of Biryani. The Khoja Heritage Festival 2020 in Birmingham attracted a larger crowd of almost 200 people affirming the increasing interest within the community wanting to discover more about their origins. The large attendance made the event even more special.
The afternoon program was even more joyful beginning with the Khoja Heritage Exhibition led by Sr Zainab Master. Due to the large number of attendees, two sessions of the exhibition tour were organised dedicating one to the women and one to the gents. The exhibition portrayed several photos of past dignitaries who had a key role and impact in the foundation of the Khoja community in India.
“Heritage is part and parcel of every community, a community that does not realise its own heritage is poor, whether it is a large or small community” Dr Hasnain Walji.
One way of promoting our heritage is to showcase the value that it brings to the community by the means of an exhibition. Therefore, we decided to hold an exhibition to showcase our heritage and culture and enable people to learn more about Khoja History.
Many of the exhibits were created and produced by the team of Mulla Asghar Library and Resource centre, also known as MARC, which is based in Toronto and is led by Br Hasnain Karim.
In total, there were seven stations. We displayed a migration map of the Khoja community showing us how nomadic we are, right from the 17th century to 1960s and onwards and displayed our movement from India all the way to East Africa. We also showed sketches of prominent figures in our history such as Haji Naji, Ayatullah Zainul Abedin Mazandarani, Sachu Pira and many more.
Additionally, a PowerPoint presentation was shown about people’s history in which personalities, places and historical events are depicted that took place in the Khoja history. It is a living documentary of our history until the present day and is also available on marcresource.org to watch.
A touchscreen was organised to showcase the digitised books where over 80 manuscripts have been gathered across the world in over 7-8 years. All the books in our collection have been digitised on to a computer screen, it’s all on cloud, no disk required – just need to log on to our various websites khoja.com or khojahistory.com, click on the book and you can flip the pages and read it online at home in your own leisure.
We also displayed the copy of the original Samachar, which is the first ever paper in Zanzibar published by Br Fazal Janmohamed Master.
Sports being a great platform in promoting our faith and history by bringing our community together, we presented a video which demonstrated sports exhibitions held by The Mulla Asgher Resource Centre. The video also portrayed a few sports personalities from 1920’s to 2015.
Overall, the exhibition was a great learning point about the Khoja History and really engaged the audience.
Following the exhibition, the Seniors citizens of Birmingham performed an entertaining play they had prepared in Gujarati adding humour to the atmosphere. The play was well received and the audience showed great appreciation on the efforts made by Birmingham seniors.
The excitement and entertainment continued with having a Gujarati game that consisted of forming a word in Gujarati containing of two letters that were randomly chosen. We had a number of participants for this game and a gift was presented to the two winners at the end of the game. The Gujarati game sought to promote Gujarati across generations within our community. It was a real success and the non-Gujarati speakers were able to pick new Gujarati words they had not heard before.
The Khoja Heritage Festival 2020 included activities for the whole family of all ages. A treasure hunt was organised for children and they were also presented with small gifts for their participation.
The programme ended with a closing speech by Br Mohammed Kassamali, from Birmingham Jamaat, to conclude the event thanking the audience and organisers that made the event a great success.
Overall the Khoja Heritage Festival 2020 was well received with a huge turnout. The day was filled with celebrating our rich heritage, legacy and language as well as strengthening bonds between community members across European Jamaats. We hope the next Khoja Heritage Festival will attract a larger crowd and become a bigger success Inshallah.
CoEJ would like to thank the KSIMC of Birmingham for hosting the Khoja Heritage Festival 2020 and would also like to thank all the volunteers for their time and effort dedicated to making this event a huge success!