By NOUMAN KHALIL
MISSISSAUGA — Amid a backdrop of racial attacks, vandalism and protests due to tensions between Palestine and Israel in the Middle East, the Muslim community is gearing up to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr with religious fervor and enthusiasm.
During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to conclude this coming Sunday, the community faced unrest in the GTA.
Tensions sparked in Mississauga with a pro-Israel protest outside Palestine House just before the ‘iftar’ (breakfast) time on July 14. The demonstration ended in a clash between the two groups, injuring two people. Two members of Palestine House were arrested but released without charges.
On July 18, two brothers, McMaster University students, were attacked by a group of 10 to 12 people as they travelled home from ‘isha/tareveeh’ (late evening) prayers at a downtown mosque in Hamilton.
The Jaffari Community Centre in Vaughan was later vandalized and spray-painted with the Star of David and racial slurs like “Arab go home!” on the sidewalk.
Local police are probing the cases.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization, denounced the attacks, but urged community members to show their patience.
“There will always be incidents both here and abroad that people will be upset by,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of NCCM. “But our general advice is to always channel those feelings into lawful, positive and proactive responses including, for example, writing letters to elected officials and to the media to make their voices heard.”
Regardless of what is happening, the Muslim community is ready to enjoy the three-day festival, which marks the end of Ramadan.
“We are passionate, feel and regret for what is happening, but Eid is Eid … no matter what, we fully celebrate. Our Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) celebrated Eid even when his son died,” said Imam Alaa Elsayed of ISNA Canada. “We have pasted the month of Ramadan. We fasted for the sake of Allah and kept us away from our desires. It’s time for fun, to enjoy and give the best to our kids.
“But if somebody is vandalizing, you have to be patient. Respect the law and deal with a well-balanced approach,” said Elsayed.
Every year, Muslims around the world celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, which is also the festivity of 29 or 30 days of intense fasting from dawn-to-sunset, prayers, reading of holy Quran and good deeds like peace-making, soul purifying and charities during the entire month of Ramadan.
The festival brings lives back to normal routine. During Ramadan, eating, drinking, physical needs and even smoking are not allowed from sunrise to sunset, while Eid marks the beginning of a new healthy lifestyle with a renewed commitment of continuing such practices until next Ramadan.
ISNA Canada has already announced Eid will be on Monday, July 28, whereas the Hilal Committee of Toronto is meeting on Sunday (July 27) evening to determine sighting of the moon.
“There are good chances that the moon will be sighted on Sunday,” said Yunas Pandor, coordinator of the Hilal Committee.
According to Islamic tradition, as soon as the moon is sighted, the month of fasting ends and Eid celebrations begin. People take their families for Eid shopping and buy new dresses and shoes. Girls apply mehndi (henna tattoos) on their hands and wear jewelry and bangles.
A number of Eid bazars have been arranged in Brampton and Mississauga, which offer a range of designer clothes, Islamic handicrafts and artifacts, jewelry and henna tattoo, fashion shows and variety of food.
On Eid day, people then wear new or best clothes, apply ‘attar’ (non-alcoholic perfumes) and gather in mosques to perform Eid prayers. Later they visit their relatives, friends and neighbours and distribute sweets and gifts, especially among the children.
‘Sadaqah al-fitr’ or ‘fitra’ (charity of fast-breaking or poor tax) has to extended before prayers. Depending on affordability, it is a mandatory tax in aid of poor Muslims so they can also participate in the joy and celebrate the festival happily.
By NOUMAN KHALIL