Toronto

The spirit of Islam emanated throughout the GTA during the Eid weekend. The largest Eid gathering, the GTA Eid Festival, celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Thousands of cheerful faces filled up Exhibition Place to mark the joyous occasion. After the Eid prayers, people busied themselves with shopping in the diverse marketplace, children enjoyed themselves at the carnival and everyone topped it off with a delicious meal at the ethnic food court.

Muslim taking days off for Eid seemed to have a significant economic effect, at least for the transportation industry. Gail Beck Souter, General Manager of Beck Taxi, said about 75 percent of her workers practice Islam, and about half of them took the day off. This resulted in wait times of up to 45 minutes during rush hours.

When asked about thoughts on the controversies happening south of the border, most Muslims simply didn’t want to dwell over it. It was their favourite time of the year, a time of celebration, and a small group of trouble makers in Florida wasn’t going to get in their way.

Pakistan

Eid celebrations were quite modest and relatively low-key in flood stricken Pakistan. With millions of people homeless and hungry across the nation, it wasn’t as easy to celebrate the holiday with the usual splendor. Thousands of people spent their Eid in the open air, with no home to return to, no new clothes to wear and no traditional delicacies to enjoy the festive occasion.

President Asif Ali Zardar demonstrated the sober sentiment in his speech; “We cannot celebrate the day with traditional fanfare and festivities when millions of our countrymen have been rendered shelter-less as villages, towns and cities have been destroyed by the floods”.

Special prayers were said at mosques around the country for the flood victims. People were encouraged to share the joyous occasion with those affected. Politicians made special visits to the temporary shelters and handed out presents. The government declared a four day holiday in order to allow people time to travel back to their villages.

Most of Ramadan was spent in considerable difficulty for the victims, many of whom chose to fast regardless of their circumstance. The calamity wasn’t only a test for those affected but also for those who were called on to help; it was a test of how charitable they could be during the month of Ramadan. Muslim did respond with considerable generosity; The Organization of The Islamic Conference announced the Muslims from around the world had pledged nearly $1 billion to the relief effort.

New York City

Eid fell around a tense period for American Muslims. Not only did it coincide with the 9/11 anniversary, a tragedy whose blame is often delegated to the average Muslim, but Islamophobic rhetoric was at an all time high since the attacks as well. With nation wide opposition to the proposed mosque near ground-zero and threats of Quran burnings taking place, Eid celebrations in New York were met with ambivalence.

Nonetheless, New Yorkers went on with their Eid celebrations and made the most out of their day. About 2000 men and women crammed themselves into the two carpeted rooms of the Harlem mosque. The mosque overflowed and over a hundred people were praying outside on the grass as busy New Yorkers rushed past them. Imams at mosques urged Muslims to be patient and called for forgiveness in a time of hatred and animosity between people. “So they want to burn the Qur’an? Well, let them. We don’t have to respond with bombs and mischief making. Allah will take care of them. He always does,” remarked an Imam in Queens.

Despite the anti-Islamic sentiment at this time, New York demonstrated its historic spirit of tolerance and tradition of inclusivity. Keeping with tradition, the Empire State Building was lit up in bright green to commemorate Eid-ul-Fitr.

Originally written for The Mirror

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