Some Islamic faith community members across the state felt anxious as they awaited news on the dates of the annual Hajj pilgrimage and a subsequent holiday.
Early on, the lunar calendar hinted that the date of Eid al-Adha, one of the most festive Muslim holidays, would be Sunday, coinciding with a date many Americans view as a somber one: Sept. 11.
Sheryl Siddiqui, of Tulsa, spokeswoman for the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, said some Muslim Oklahomans wondered how the Eid holiday would be handled if it occurred on the 15th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorists, later identified as operatives with the al-Qaida terrorist group, flew hijacked air planes into iconic American buildings.
Siddiqui and other Oklahoma Muslim leaders said some Muslims were concerned that non-Muslims would incorrectly interpret the festivities of the Eid holiday and assume Muslims were celebrating 9/11.
In recent days, the Supreme Court of the Saudi announced the date of Eid worldwide would be Monday, Sept. 12.
“The big concern was not the fact that we would celebrate a holiday, which, like Easter, moves each year,” Siddiqui said. “The concern was the perceptions of people who are not familiar with Muslim customs to begin with.”
Several years ago, there were reports that some New Jersey Muslims celebrated 9/11. The reports were debunkied, but many American Muslim leaders said the false report has been told so much that it has become truth in the minds of some non-Muslims, Siddiqui said.
Setting a date
Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said imams across the country had been concerned about the issue since last year.
He said the subject was the topic of one of his recent sermons after several people attending the Islamic Society’s mosque, at 3815 N St. Clair, expressed their worries about the holiday and 9/11 anniversary converging.
“There was this apprehension by the community,” Enchassi said. “They told me, ‘We don’t want to be misunderstood. We don’t control the movement of the moon.’ ”
Siddiqui said the Hajj pilgrimage and Eid al-Adha holiday are based on the lunar calendar.
However, Muslims around the globe typically look to the Ministry of the Hajj, working with the Supreme Court of the Saudi, to choose a day for the Hajj and the Eid holiday so Muslims worldwide may celebrate together.
This year, the Supreme Court of the Saudi announced the dates, and the Ministry of the Hajj planned accordingly, she said.
The Hajj, known as the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is set to begin Saturday. It is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for Muslims who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.
Hajj consists of a series of re-enactments, focusing on the obedience of Abraham, whom God told to sacrifice his son Ishmael, according to the Quran, the Islamic holy book. The series of faith rituals ends with Eid al-Adha, the festival celebrating the Hajj fulfillment, on Monday.
Respect and honor
Siddiqui said with the holiday falling on Monday, local Muslims won’t “feel quite so torn.”
“At least we have one day to observe this national day (9/11). Then we can have a jubilant joyous celebrating remembering those on the Hajj,” she said.
Siddiqui said the Islamic Society of Tulsa plans to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary by taking sweets to first responders such as law enforcement officers and firefighters.
On Monday, many Muslim youths will forgo school, and adult Muslims will take off work to celebrate Eid with family and friends, she said.
In Oklahoma City, Enchassi said families attending the Islamic society’s mosque will enjoy “Muslim Day” at Frontier City one day soon to celebrate Eid.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter, said it’s important to note that the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks do not represent faith teachings of the Muslim community.
He said he understands the concerns of some Muslims about how the Eid holiday festivities might have been perceived if they took place on 9/11. But he said he did not agree with ideas to move or cancel the holiday festivities in case of a convergence. He said Americans must continue their religious traditions instead of giving in to the fear that terrorists seek to heighten.
“By carrying forth with our religious and cultural traditions in the face of whatever uncertainties exist, we are honoring the lives of those lost as we continue to heal as a nation,” Soltani said.