MANATEE -- Saturday's second annual International Food and Crafts Festival by the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton will offer Muslims a chance to share their culture and educate people about their faith.
More than 350 people came to last year's festival, visiting booths where they purchased food and hand-made crafts, including jewelry. They also purchased clothing, homemade honey and other items, said Bradenton's Shiraz Hassan, a beekeeper who will oversee an observation bee hive for children.
The event is set for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Islamic Society, 4350 N. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota.
The culture, not the religion, determines what one might find on the table of a Muslim family, said Amani Makarita, who will be doing face painting at the festival.
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"Food is different depending on if they are from Morocco, Egypt or Pakistan," Makarita said.
Many traditional foods will be available at the festival, Makarita added.
The festival comes at a time when local Muslims such as Hassan are dealing with increasing pressure from national dialogue on Islam, including Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump's controversial call to ban Muslims from entering the United States and fear over recent terrorist attacks in Paris and California.
Hassan, a member of the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton Board, said he believes this is the perfect time for a festival so the community can ask questions and see the mosque for themselves.
"Obviously, some people associate our faith with these acts of violence, which have recently happened in Paris and California, and may not know they are not related at all to Islam," Hassan said Thursday. "We want to bring the community together and get people who are curious about Islam to visit our mosque and see what we are all about."
Last year, two Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputies helped direct traffic. One more deputy will be added this year, Hassan said.
A highlight for some last year was the ability to watch prayers inside the mosque and talk about Islamic culture with Muslims from Bradenton, Sarasota and Tampa, Hassan said.
The booths are back. And the public will again be allowed to witness prayers at 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Visitors can chat about Muslim culture and other subjects.
"We don't have anything to hide," Hassan said. "We will talk to people about Islam, our culture and about terrorism."
Neighboring churches have reached out to the mosque in this time of stress for local Muslims and neighbors have also dropped by to show their support, Hassan said.
"We want to make this a fun day for the community," Hassan added. "Hopefully, it will bring the community together and also get answers for people who are curious about Islam."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.