September 11, 2010
Text and photos by Ted Regencia
SKOKIE, Ill — Friday marks the first full day of Eid al-Fitr, a three-day feast celebrating the end of Ramadan, a month-long period of prayer and fasting for Muslims.
Amid twin controversies over the threat of Qur’an burning in Florida, and the planned construction of the Cordoba House mosque in New York, Skokie-area Muslims thronged to the Muslim Community Center (MCC) in Morton Grove to reflect and celebrate.
Niles North student Zohra Raja, 16, and younger sister Sara, 13, were in a lively mood as they emerged from prayer. The Raja sisters, whose family comes from Lahore, Pakistan, were looking forward to getting together with relatives to share “lots of spicy food” and receive monetary gifts from elders.
“All our family are coming over to our house,” said Zohra, who along with her sister were garbed in fashionable hijab (headdress) fit for the special occasion.
Mustafa Quadri, 22, a DeVry Univesity student and Lutheran General Hospital office staff, was also elegantly dressed in black shalwar kameez suit and grey vest.
“Eid is a very beautiful celebration. After Ramadan, everybody gets together and you see everyone that you don’t see throughout the year. It’s a very joyous occasion,” said Quadri. Eid means “festivity” in Arabic, while Fitr means “end of fasting.”
As Eid celebration continues, the controversy swirling over the threatened Qur’an burning, was not far off from the minds of these young Skokie Muslim faithfuls.
Earlier, Rev. Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach, a small Florida church, has threatened to burn copies of the Islamic holy book on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“At first I was really distraught,” said Zohra Raja. “I didn’t understand why somebody would do that. I think it is wrong to disrespect someone’s faith.”
While acknowledging the pastor’s “right to do it,” Raja said the act of burning does not accomplish anything.
“What would he get by burning the Qur’an?” she asked. “He has no logic,” her younger sister, Sara, interjected.
The elder Raja sister also rejected claims “that Islam is not a peaceful religion.”
“I just want to say that it is not true,” Raja said. “There are some extremists out there, but they don’t represent the Muslim as a whole.
Tariq Malhance, private equity investor and immediate past president of MCC in Morton Grove and Chicago, said other Christian groups are even condemning the actions of Pastor Jones.
“That was really sad what he is trying to do,” Malhance said. “It is only making people upset.”
Earlier, Malhance was at the Toyota Park soccer stadium in Bridgeview, where an estimated 15,000 Muslims gathered for an Eid morning prayer. He was joined by a coalition of religious leaders including Catholic, Jewish and Protestants believers who all condemned Jones.
This year’s Eid celebration coincided with the commemoration of 9/11, and Malhance read a statement praying “for all Muslims and non-Muslims who lost their lives in World Trade Center.”
On a related issue, Malhance, a former Chicago comptroller, said politics is behind the controversy over the planned building of a community center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York.
“I don’t even understand why there’s so much opposition,” Malhance said. He pointed out Muslims have already been praying in the same location for years.
Malhance added the project would promote understanding of the Muslim faith, and create inter-religious dialogue.
Maryam Al-Zoubi, who is part of the New Americans Democracy Project of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights, said it is an issue of “Islamophobia” creeping in the society.
“It doesn’t stop at Park 51 [the planned Cordoba House mosque,]” Al-Zoubi said, adding that even in Illinois, the buildings of mosques are being stopped. She also pointed out that in Tennessee, construction equipment for a planned Mosque was set on fire.
Al-Zoubi, a University of North Carolina graduate, is urging her fellow Muslims and other minorities to register and vote, to get their voices heard by politicians.
At the same time, she urged politicians to stand up for religious freedom.
“I think it starts with our elected officials. They are the ones that the people listen to,” Al-Zoubi said. “They are the ones who need to come out and say, ‘I support freedom of religion in America, I support the Constitution.”