By Dan Gilgoff – CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
For Muslims, the end of the holy month of Ramadan is typically cause for celebration, with three days of feasting and socializing after a month of daytime fasting.
This year, though, many American Muslims are greeting Ramadan’s end with a measure of worry, as the holiday coincides with the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
“Most Muslim communities will be reluctant to have something that’s perceived to be celebratory on 9/11 even though we’re not celebrating 9/11,” said Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“There’s a whole cottage industry of Muslim bashers now who would seize on that,” he said. “Unfortunately, these are the times we live in.”
With many American Muslims already feeling intense scrutiny over the controversy surrounding a proposed Islamic center and mosque near New York’s ground zero, many mosques and Islamic groups are dramatically altering their usual plans for Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan holiday.
In the United States, most mosques are expected to celebrate the holiday – typically called Eid – this Friday, September 10, though some may celebrate it a day later – Saturday, September 11 – because of their interpretation of the lunar cycle. Ordinarily, festivities – bazaars, potlucks, bowling alley parties – would extend for three days, following more solemn prayers on the morning of Eid itself.
The Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, California recently announced that it was cancelling its Eid carnival, originally scheduled for Saturday.
“The decision to cancel the Carnival was due to the recent increase in the levels of hostilities against Islam and Muslims following the proposal to construct an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan,” a statement on the center’s web site said, “and to deprive extremists from the opportunity to claim that American Muslims are celebrating 9/11.”
Eid has never coincided with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks before. Because Muslims follow a lunar calendar, the holiday falls roughly 11 days earlier with each passing year.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which made national headlines after the site of its future mosque was vandalized last month, has decided against scheduling any festivities for Saturday.
“It’s a sad day for us as Americans and it’s a sad day for us a nation and we don’t feel it would be right to celebrate on the anniversary of 9/11,” said Abdou Kattih, vice president of the center’s board of directors.
Kattih, who says his brother-in-law was headed to an appointment near New York’s World Trade Center on the morning of the 9/11 attacks but got stuck in traffic, says he would never schedule festivities on September 11.
In lieu of celebrations, many mosques are planning open houses next weekend in hopes of strengthening ties to their communities, according to Naeem Baig, vice president for public affairs at the Islamic Circle of North America.
“The anti-Muslim wave we are witnessing is really affecting the Muslim community,” Baig said. “Some fear violence against their Islamic center. Rather than be afraid, we’re encouraging them to be open and to let people come to their Islamic centers.”
The Islamic Circle of North America normally schedules its annual Muslim Family Days at Six Flags amusement parks around Eid, but was careful this year to avoid scheduling any on September 11.
In most cities, Muslim Family Day will be either September 10 or 12, Baig said.
A coalition of influential Muslim groups, meanwhile, has announced a national day of service for September 11, aimed largely at burnishing the image of American Muslims at a sensitive time.
“All eyes will be on us this Eid and on 9/11,” reads promotional material for the event. “…But can you imagine the power of a headline or TV news story that features American Muslims as citizens, giving back to our country?”
“On September 11th, let’s show that we can rise above prejudice and hatred and be the kind of conscientious citizens who give back to our country by through a national ‘Muslim Serve’ campaign,” the materials continue.
The event is being promoted by CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, among other organizations.
CAIR’s Hooper said that some mosques fear attacks because of Eid and the 9/11 anniversary next weekend. He said his group is encouraging mosques to request stepped-up patrols from local police and to review security procedures.
Article Courtesy: CNN Belief Blog