Members of the Islamic Center of Santa Ana line up after sunset in front of a taco truck, part of #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque event, during an iftar meal, one of the religious observances of Ramadan, as they gathering to break their fast together. (Photo by Steven Georges, Contributing Photographer)

    On Saturday, for the first time, this community’s iftar meal arrived in a bright green taco truck. El believes it’s the start of a wonderful relationship.

    “The fact that we are uniting with the Latino community through food is just a beautiful thing,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know we’re here. We’re Asian and we’re Muslim.”

    This event, named #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque, was the brainchild of community activists Rida Hamida, a Palestinian-American and Benjamin Vazquez, a Santa Ana educator who have, for the last year, been working on bringing the Muslim and Latino communities together through storytelling and food. Resilience OC was also a partner in this event.

    They plan to take this event to other Orange County mosques during Ramadan.

    The most recent Orange County Hate Crime Report showed that Muslims and Latinos were the prime targets of hate incidents in 2016.

    This is the time to break down self-made barriers between communities, Vazquez said.

    “We’ve been guilty of prejudice toward one another,” he said. “And this is the way we break it all down — with food. Today, we’re celebrating one another’s culture. We’re making connections.”

    Hamida said  Indo-Chinese Muslim community shows the different colors of Islam in its multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multicultural glory.

    “I hope this event helps us think differently about each other and helps shatter stereotypes,” she said.

    Latinos, Asian Muslims and Latino Muslims among others gathered inside the mosque’s sanctuary to hear speakers. Mosque members stayed for evening prayers before partaking iftar.

    The community acquired the building, which used to be a mortuary, in September, said President Sean “Habib” Tu who escaped from Communist Vietnam in 1979.

    Tu, was was 17 at the time, rode a bike with his father across Vietnam to Cambodia and Thailand to a refugee camp. It’s this common experience that has bound this community tightly for the last three decades, Tu said.

    “As we evolve as a community, our goal is to reach out to our neighbors and to forge partnerships to help the poor, needy and homeless in the area,” he said.

    Tu said the mosque was started by families from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, but is open to all community members.

    The mosque serves iftar dinner every night during the holy month of Ramadan. The buffet table is filled with rice, soup, chicken curry, fruit, cookies and coconut milk desserts.

    Santa Ana resident Ivan Enriquez was enjoying some of that chicken curry at one of the tables arranged outdoors. He said he had been fasting all day.

    “I just wanted to see what that feels like,” he said. “It was hard not to think about food. I now understand what Muslims go through during Ramadan.”

    Rohan Sos of Santa Ana said he has never seen so many people at his mosque.

    “It is really exciting to meet people from different cultures, countries and backgrounds,” he said.

    When he left Cambodia around 1980, only 5 to 10 percent of the country was Muslim. Today that number is close to 20 percent, he said.

    “Every city in Cambodia now has a mosque,” Sos said.

    Abdul Kareem of Santa Ana said he’d like to have these events more often at his mosque.

    Kareem’s parents are from Cambodia, but he was born here. As he held a plate of food, he explained to an elderly member about the taco truck.

    “I think we should do this more often,” he said. “It brings so many people of different ethnic backgrounds together.”

    As for Moreno, it was a new experience, he said, right from picking up halal meat from Fresh Choice Market in Anaheim to parking his truck outside the mosque and grilling his trademark “fritanga” plates — a mix of beef and chicken with garlic, onions and peppers.

    “Today has been very special,” he said. “I’m so honored to be here.”


    By DEEPA BHARATH | dbharath@scng.com | Orange County Register
    PUBLISHED: June 4, 2017 at 2:11 pm | UPDATED: June 5, 2017 at 7:54 am

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