For anyone who is unfamiliar, Eid al-Fitr, or Eid, is one of the most significant times in the Muslim religion. Depending on where you're from, Eid is a one to three-day holiday that comes after the month of Ramadan (which is itself one of Islam's holiest months). During Ramadan, all Muslims fast (or do not eat anything) from sunrise to sunset. But Eid, which began yesterday, is all about not fasting, but feasting. Similar to Christmas or even Thanksgiving, it is a time when families get together, exchange gifts, give money to the poor, pray a special set of prayers, and eat. Above all, it is a time of great joy and celebration for Muslims.
At least it's supposed to be. But this Eid, many Muslims—in Canada and around the world—are finding themselves divided on how best to celebrate. If at all.
A sad end to Ramadan
The reason for this difficulty is simple: the past week has been a terrible one for many Muslim countries. We already wrote about the awful attack at Ataturk airport in Istanbul on Tuesday, June 28. But sadly, it was just first in a string of terrorist attacks. On Friday, July 1st, a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh was attacked by extremists and 20 hostages were killed. On Monday, July 4th, three separate bombs were set off in three different locations in Saudi Arabia, including the holy city of Medina.
But worst of all was the attack in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq. On Sunday, July 3rd, several bombs were set off in a crowded area. Over 250 people lost their lives in the worst single attack in Baghdad in years. The extremist Islamic State, or ISIS, has claimed responsibility for both the Bangladeshi and Iraqi attacks—experts believe strongly that the group is also behind the other attacks as well.
How to celebrate while mourning?
These terrible events left many Muslims at a crossroads during this Eid. How do you celebrate when you feel such sorrow? There's no easy answer.
"We can't celebrate and be happy and walk around smiling when 230 men and women were killed for no reason," said Hassan Jaber to CBC. He was born in Iraq and lives in Ajax, Ontario. "I'm not celebrating Eid this year, and I know a lot of people that are doing the same thing."
Instead, Jaber and other Muslims in and around Toronto are joining together to hold vigils, or gatherings of remembrance, for those who died. As Muslim Farad Al put it, "As Arabs, as Canadians and as humans, we should really stand up and say enough."
It's a moving tribute seeing people sacrifice such a beloved holiday to honour others. But there is another way to look at the day. For example, while the B.C. Muslim Association is full of sadness and anger over these attacks, they will not let the attacks stop the celebration. "We are heading to join a prayer together, and we will celebrate today," said Shawkat Hasan, the association's vice president.
Bags of gifts for refugees
Meanwhile in Ottawa, some are focusing on what a holiday like Eid means to new Muslim refugees who have only just arrived from places like Syria. This will be the first Eid in Canada for these refugees, and people like Heart to Heart organizer Housnah Gunny are determined to make it a beautiful one. "We want to celebrate them too because the refugee families—they went through a lot of trauma," Gunny told the CBC. "Ottawa is their new home."