Sept. 11 Anniversary Coincides With Muslim Holiday
LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:
The on-again, off-again Quran burning is not all that has Muslims on edge. Ramadan ended last night. That usually means three days of festivities for the Muslim holiday Eid ul-Fitr. This year, one of those days falls on September 11th. Around the country, mosques are scaling back their celebrations, and that includes the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, California. The center's director, Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, says there are two reasons why the mosque changed its plans to hold an Eid carnival Saturday.
KAMAL ABU: We didn't want any extremists out there to exploit the pain of our country by saying Muslims are celebrating 9/11. And the discussion around the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan and the escalation of rhetoric on the airwaves, locally, a mosque was attacked. Out of fear for our safety of our community, we decided not to have huge public gatherings.
WERTHEIMER: You mentioned another mosque, which has had some very unpleasant incidents. Could you tell us exactly what happened?
ABU: Yes. The Madera mosque, which is about 25 minutes drive away from Fresno, was vandalized three times in one week. And one time a brick was tossed through the window of the mosque. Two signs were placed inside the compound - one was placed outside - that refers to the mosque in New York and labeling the Muslim community as a terrorist community.
WERTHEIMER: Do you think that people are afraid for their own safety?
ABU: Muslims are concerned every time we approach 9/11. That something is understandable. However, what we really don't understand is the ongoing rhetoric that is being placed on airwaves, especially during the month of Ramadan. We welcome the questions about our faith. But the comments that really put down our faith, that's something that is unwelcomed.
WERTHEIMER: As I'm sure you know, The Washington Post published a poll yesterday, saying that 49 percent of all Americans now have an unfavorable view of Islam. I wonder what the talk is in your congregation about that.
ABU: We have speakers from the Jewish community, Baptist community, Evangelical, Hindus, Sikhs - all across the mosaic of America's diverse community will be with us tonight.
WERTHEIMER: I'm sure the children of the mosque are disappointed that the carnival won't happen. So have you rescheduled it?
ABU: I've decided to have the celebration the night before. We are not canceling our holidays, just the coinciding of the Eid and 9/11, we decided to avoid that. There will be other events that the community will gather and enjoy, but it will not be on 9/11.
WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much for talking to us.
ABU: Thank you.
WERTHEIMER: Kamal Abu-Shamsieh is director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno.
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