PHILADELPHIA–Islam, according to the Pew Research Center, is the world’s fastest growing religion. The adherents of Islam called Muslims represent over 25 percent of the world’s global population.
During a recent rally, as part of a campaign to get the City of Brotherly Love to recognize the Muslim holidays of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, popular Imam Siraj Wahaj of New York’s Al-Taqwa Masjid said, just as his city recognizes Christian, Jewish and Muslim holidays with Muslim school children 10 percent of the public school population, Philadelphia’s 20 percent Muslim public school population justifies recognition of both holidays.
Eid Al-Fitr (feast of Ramadan) and Eid Al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice) are celebrated annually. The first Eid is celebrated after fasting during the month of Ramadan, the second Eid celebrates the remembrance of Abraham who in obedience to God’s command was willing to sacrifice his son Ishmael. At the last minute God stops Abraham, and provides him with a ram to sacrifice instead. The festival also marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Each year millions of the faithful make the mandatory journey to the Holy City of Mecca.
Longtime Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah, attending the rally observed that the U.S. Constitution says “we can’t pick and choose” when it comes to religion and celebrating holidays. In an 1878 decision upholding “constitutional protection … for religious beliefs” the Supreme Court ruled, “Congress cannot pass a law for the government of the Territory which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion.”
Rep. Fatah also shared how Muslim Congressman Andre Carson (D-Ind.) was concerned about a “toxic environment” for Philadelphia’s estimated 200,000 Muslims. Rep. Carson, according to published reports, blamed in part GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump for much of an “incendiary” atmosphere that has caused incidents of “hate crimes against Muslims to skyrocket.”
Rep. Carson also blames a recent “death threat” he received in his office from statements made by Mr. Trump that include blocking all Muslims from entering the country.
Imam Siraj, possibly reflecting on the insurmountable odds and abuse Prophet Muhammad and his followers overcame to establish Islam in Arabia, exhorted the crowd to not be deterred, and said every knock is a boost.
“In Astoria, Queens (New York) a Muslim was beaten up by a man who said he wanted to kill all Muslims. Everywhere you go Muslims are threatened. But we’re not afraid. Because one thing that we learned about Islam if you leave us alone we will grow. If you attack us we will grow faster. We can’t lose,” he proclaimed.
Echoing words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Imam Siraj asked Muslims whether they were “thermometers or thermostats?”
“If it is 60 degrees the thermometer will tell you that. If it is zero degrees, the thermometer tells you that because the thermometer only registers whatever the temperature,” he said.
“Ah, but a thermostat. If it is 60 degrees and you don’t like it, turn it up. If it is zero degrees and you don’t like it you bring up the heat or you bring it down. You control it because you are a thermostat,” he explained. “You don’t just complain, you change the condition. Men and women by the help of Allah change the conditions,” the imam said. “We have to now take over and be what we’re destined to be.”
Councilman Curtis Jones, who is spearheading an Eid holiday proposal in the city council, said he was recently approached by a colleague. He was told the Eid holiday was a good idea, but the timing wasn’t right.
“I said, this is the perfect time. This is when Allah decrees that he is the best of planners, that he knows when we should have this dialogue. Because, if you are silent they’ll believe what they read in the newspaper and see on TV,” the Muslim city councilman said.
“This is the perfect time to have a dialogue to put the record straight. Right here, right now,” he said to thunderous applause.
Philadelphia Eid Coalition chair Michael Rashid, putting an exclamation point on the rally, said, “It makes no sense” that Philadelphia’s 200,000 Muslim taxpayers, whose children represent 20 percent of the public school population, have to be absent from school to celebrate Eid with family and friends. “Marginalizing Muslim children is not a good fit for Philadelphia, and not a good thing for America,” he said.
“Talk about celebrating family values,” Mr. Rashid continued, “In our society our children are sitting in school and their celebrations are not even mentioned, when these values, like sacrifice, by going without for one month, and feeding the poor, should not only be promoted to our Muslim children, but to the children of the world.”
The bill introducing the two Eid celebrations as official City of Philadelphia recognized holidays was to be submitted on Jan. 14, by city councilman Jones.