Muslim Americans Prepare for Eid-ul-Fitr
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Muslim Americans Prepare for Eid-ul-Fitr
Diverse community draws on old traditions, new customs
By Lea Terhune
Washington File Staff Writer
04 October 2006
Washington --When American Muslims celebrate
Eid-ul-Fitr they observe the same religious traditions
familiar to Muslims around the world, but celebrate in
a distinctly American way, as people from diverse
national and cultural backgrounds come together to
share the feast.
Imam Mohamed Magid from the All Dulles Area Muslim
Society (ADAMS) center in Sterling, Virginia, says
that Muslims in America look forward to Eid-ul-Fitr
for several reasons. Besides the religious
observances, breaking the monthlong Ramadan fast and
socializing, Muslims receive special greetings from
the president of the United States. It makes Muslims
feel their holiday is part of mainstream American
holidays, the imam told the Washington File.
It has been a tradition to mark the occasion of eid in
the White House since George H. W. Bush was president.
The Clinton White House continued the observance, as
has George W. Bush. In 2001, a U.S. postage stamp was
issued commemorating eid.
According to Magid, new technology has made it easier
to plan eid celebrations. Now Muslims accurately can
calculate when the new moon will signal the beginning
of eid in their locality. No longer must they wait for
an imam to sight the moon. They can know far ahead of
time when to take off work, he said.
The ADAMS center has a congregation of 5,070 families
from diverse Muslim traditions. The mosque is known
for its openness and involvement in interfaith
dialogues. Sunni and Shiia worship there together. I
think we find a common ground being Muslims and
Americans. We focus on the common good, working and
studying together, Magid said. Respect for all in
Islam must be in a mosque, he said. Respecting each
other and living in harmony. He said his mosque
initiated a Sunni-Shiia dialogue, which is continuing
nationwide. We hope we can send the dialogue to
Pakistan and Iraq and other places where there is
conflict between the two sects, he said.
Most families observe the same general eid customs of
going to the mosque after sunrise. Before anything we
offer zakat, or alms to the poor, said
Moroccan-American Saad. In America, this is
customarily done through the mosque. Then special eid
prayers are said. Usually, on Eid-ul-Fitr, the
faithful pray in a large group in the mosque, outdoors
or in some other venue where an imam will give a
sermon. The Ramadan fast is broken with sweets.
Everyone wears new clothes -- especially children are
dressed in bright, new outfits. Later, most families
celebrate with a sumptuous midday meal complete with
holiday delicacies. Meeting relatives and friends is
also an important part of the eid celebration.
Magid, who is originally from Sudan, says part of his
eid celebration is taking his children to an amusement
park for a special day of recreation. Amina,
originally from Egypt, makes traditional cookies or
kak-ul-fitr for her family to break the fast, as do
Arab-American Muslims from the Gulf states.
Iranian-American Muslims prepare a sweet,
saffron-spiced rice dish and halwah in honor of the
holiday. And for the big luncheon, halal meat is
readily available in cities and towns with Muslim
Businessman Mukit Hossain, who hails from Bangladesh,
told the Washington File that on eid Bangladeshi
Muslims relish vegetables fried in batter and moori,
puffed rice with chickpeas. Misti doi, a thick yogurt
sweetened with palm sugar and lassi, a yogurt drink,
are also a must on his Eid-ul-Fitr menu.
Hossain said Bangladeshi Muslim organizations
sometimes invite members of the Bangladeshi-American
community to special observances. Eid sermons are
delivered in English because many second-generation
Bangladeshi Americans do not speak Bangala, and
American Muslims have various ethnic and linguistic
origins. Regarding the eid sermon, Hossain said, If I
know a person who is ultraconservative, I avoid those
people because, in my humble understanding, they dont
The majority of Muslims in the United States are
African Americans. South Asians are thought to be the
second largest group, with Arab Americans third
largest. Estimates of the Muslim population in the
United States range between 3 million and 8 million.
There are more than 800 mosques in the United States.
In the hectic pace of daily life, Muslim Americans
have the same difficulty meeting their friends
socially as do most hard-working Americans.
Consequently, Hossain identifies one of the greatest
joys of eid saying, You meet a lot of people you
havent seen in a long time.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of
International Information Programs, U.S. Department of
State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)