INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Hundreds of Philadelphia Muslims celebrated their Islamic heritage Saturday with a parade down Chestnut Street and a festival at Penn's Landing.

The afternoon parade, which began on Market Street at Independence Mall, then proceeded down to Chestnut Street and past Independence Hall, was led by a group from Montreal that sang and chanted in Arabic.

The multiethnic crowd featured immigrants from the Middle East, African American Muslims, and others, some carrying banners in Arabic that read, "No one is God except God."

Not everyone called Philadelphia home, though.

Khayriyyah Munir, 20, of Deerfield, Mass., a small town in the Berkshires where there are few Muslims, said she had traveled with her two younger brothers, Manny and Muhammad, to participate in the parade and festival, in part, so her siblings could see people in flowing robes, head coverings, and other traditional Islamic garb.

"I want them to be comfortable with their Muslim identity," said Munir, a junior at the University of Connecticut, where she is studying biomedical engineering.

The parade and many of the events of the day were organized by the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, an aid organization with branches in the United States and Canada.

When arrests of Islamic fundamentalists for allegedly planning attacks in the United States have shaped many Americans' views of Islam, participants said, part of the purpose of the day was to show the moderate face of Islam.

"The Internet spreads a lot of hate, but people who know Islam know that we are not about blowing up planes and cars," said Linda Hauber of West Philadelphia, one of the organizers of the day's events.

Lubabah Kadi of Silver Spring, Md., a recent graduate of the University of Maryland with a chemistry degree, said moderate Muslims are confident of their acceptance in the United States.

"When you know who you are, that is not a problem," she said.

Omar Dimachkie, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, said the United States was far more accepting of Muslim moderates than Europe, where national governments face political pressure to ban certain types of Muslim dress.

"It's not as easy [for Muslims] as it is for the majority," said Dimachkie, who emigrated to the United States from Lebanon. "But that is the case for minorities everywhere. The U.S. has evolved to accept many minorities."

Contact staff writer Chris Mondics at 215-854-5957 or cmondics@phillynews.com.