By SARAH RASLAN, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Sept. 6, 2010
While Muslims prepare for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, some are apprehensive about how close the holiday is expected to fall to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
For weeks Muslims around the world have been observing Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from food and drink from dawn to sunset. The month ends with a celebration known as Eid al-Fitr where people gather to celebrate and pray for the blessings they have received.
Because Islamic holidays are set to a lunar calendar, Ramadan can vary by about 10 days each year. This year, Eid al-Fitr is expected to fall on either Sept. 9 or 10, depending on the moon sightings.
“People should know that it is something that is not under our control,” said Ilyas Choudry, former secretary for the Houston chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America. “It is just a day that we celebrate to thank God for giving us the blessings of Ramadan, and it does not mean that we are not sad about what happened on September 11. There were people of different ethnicities and religions who died that day.”
But tensions are especially high this year because of the controversy over plans to build a mosque two blocks north of Ground Zero in New York. A Florida church has even declared Sept. 11 “Burn a Quran Day.”
Praying for victims Choudry noted that the day of Eid begins with prayers and that the victims of 9/11 — as well as all Americans – will be included in the prayers.
Still, some American Muslims are worried that celebrating Eid could be misinterpreted as celebrating the actions of the hijackers.
The Islamic Circle of North America holds a Muslim Family Day at Six Flags amusement parks in several U.S. cities to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. This year it has been rescheduled to respect the anniversary of Sept. 11. The circle’s founder, Tariq Amanullah, who worked at the World Trade Center, was killed in the attack.
“The hijackers on Sept. 11 hijacked my faith,” said Tarek Hussein, president of the Houston chapter of the Council On American-Islamic Relation. “None of them were American citizens, so Muslim Americans should not have to suffer for their actions. We should not associate something bad with anything else.”
Gifts exchanged On Eid al-Fitr, mosques can be found filled with people as early as dawn, as worshippers don their nicest clothes to join family and friends for prayers. Gifts are often exchanged between family members and many go out for breakfast or lunch to mark the end of the fasting month. Mosques and Islamic centers host carnivals and festivals at times to add to the Eid festivities.
Fasting is meant to teach patience and purify worshipers of past sins through self-discipline, prayer, good deeds and charity. Ramadan is believed to be the month in which God began revealing verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.