Simplicity Marks Eidul Fitr Celebrations in North America
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Pictures above: Glimpses of the Eid celebrations in a North America neighborhood
Muslims in North America celebrated Eidul Fitr in a somber mood because of its close proximity to the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.
Interestingly, it was the second time in recent history that Eidul Fitr was celebrated in all North America on the same day – Friday, September 10. Last year also Eidul Fitr was celebrated in North America on the same day.
Following the Islamic or Hirja calendar adopted by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) many mosques in America and Canada began Ramadan on Wednesday August 11. However, others ignored the ISNA calendar and began the month of Ramadan on August12. However all the mosques celebrated Eidul Fitr on September 10.
It may be pointed out that in 2006, the Fiqh Council of North America announced a 15-year Islamic calendar based on calculations, using the same parameters as the Umm al-Qura calendar of Saudi Arabia, to determine well in advance the beginning of all lunar months for religious observances such as beginning of the month of Ramadan and Eidul Fitr. The calendar was adopted by the Islamic Society of North America and the European Council for Fatwa and Research as a first step on the way to unifying the Islamic calendar.
Large Eid prayer congregations were held throughout North America. In many towns with large Muslim population concentration, mosques held two or three sessions of the Eid prayers.
In Houston and Dallas, Texas, Eid congregations were held at the Convention Centers to accommodate maximum number of people. In Los Angles, CA, Eid prayer was also held at the Convention Center. Texas has one of the largest Muslim population concentrations in the US.
In New York State, Eid prayer congregations were held at many mosques including the Al-Fatemah Islamic Center, Albany, Masjid Manhattan, and Islamic Cultural Center of New York.
Thousands of Muslims gathered and offered prayers at suburban Chicago soccer field.
In California, another state with large Muslim population, the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC) had announced that Eidul Fitr will be on Friday. A major Eid congregation, organized by the Islamic Society of Orange County, was held at the Anaheim Convention Center. In Sacramento, the state capital, a large Eid congregation was held at the downtown Mosque, which is the oldest mosque in the United States west of the Mississippi River. Other Eid congregations were held at Masjid Annur, Masjid As Salam and Islamic Center of Woodland.
In the Silicon Valley, large Eid congregations were held at the Islamic Society of East Bay, the Irvington Mosque and a number of other Islamic centers.
In Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Canada, more than 80 mosques held Eid prayers on Friday. Large Eid congregations were held in Scarborough, Etobicoke, Brampton, Mississauga, Oakville, Markham, Milton which are part of the GTA.
The GTA has a large concentration of Muslims population. It is estimated that around 400,000 Muslims live there. Toronto hosts 19 mosques, Scarborough 16, Mississauga 16 and Etobicoke 7. Many of the mosques did not follow the ISNA calendar and began the month of Ramadan on August 12 but all the mosques celebrated Eidul Fitr on the same day, i.e. Friday, September 10.
This year the seven million strong American Muslim community scaled back Eidul Fitr celebrations for fear of inflaming public sentiment on the eve of September 11. Islamic groups worry that the proximity of Eidul Fitr with 9/11 anniversary will increase suspicion and hostility towards Muslims at a time when feelings towards their religion are already running high.
The Council of Muslim Organizations in Washington DC called on all US Islamic centers, schools and organizations to refrain from holding Eidul Fitr celebrations. The Council said the move was out of respect for the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Religious leaders urged Muslims in the Washington DC area to attend prayers but hold off on the festivities. “Definitely there are people who would like to make us look like we are celebrating on 9/11 and we are not going to let them,” said Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, Director of Outreach at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center, Washington DC.
The Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, California announced cancellation of its Eid al-Fitr carnival on Sept. 11. For the past several years, the Islamic Cultural Center has celebrated Eidul Fitr with a carnival on the first Saturday after the holiday, when the potential is greater for large attendance. Center officials said the cancellation was an acknowledgment that any celebration could be misinterpreted and also could be seen by some as insensitivity to the remembrance of 9/11. “The decision to cancel the carnival was due to the recent increase in levels of hostilities against Islam and Muslims following the proposal to construct an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, and to deprive extremists from the opportunity to claim that American Muslims are celebrating 9/11,” said the center’s director, Kamal Abu-Shamsieh.