They came from far: Pakistan, Lebanon and India, organizers said. And from near: 80 percent were African Americans from Philadelphia, they added.

With the Delaware River flowing serenely in the background and strains of Middle Eastern music rising from red-capped singers on a bright and warm late spring day, an estimated 3,000 Muslims had gathered by midafternoon yesterday at Penn’s Landing for the 15th annual Islamic Heritage Festival.

Many at the Great Plaza were garbed according to Muslim tradition and greeted one another with the welcoming “Assalaamu Alaikum.”

Families strolled among vendors whose tables were laden with exotic perfume, bean pies, hot dogs, Korans and other items.

Organizers called it the largest Islamic festival in the country. They also estimated that the number of Muslims in Philadelphia had doubled in the last decade or so, especially in the African American community, increasing to at least 200,000.

“There have been times when we’ve had as many as 10,000 people out here,” said Abdul-Rahim Muhammad, executive head of West Philadelphia’s Islamic Cultural Preservation and Information Council, a key organizer.


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