Columbia Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, reflect on their faith

Friday, September 10, 2010 | 7:20 p.m. CDT; updated 12:43 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 13, 2010
Abdurrahman Alshiha bows his head in prayer during Eid al-Fitr, the celebration of the end of Ramadan, on Friday at the Windsor Ballroom at the Holiday Inn.

COLUMBIA — In a demonstration of faith, family and a vivid mix of cultures, more than 600 Muslims gathered to pray and celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.

At the prayer service in the Holiday Inn Select, men sat in rows at the front near Imam Mohammad Sayeed; women gathered in the back half of the room; and their children bounced between them.


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Many wore their traditional clothing — from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, India, Jordan and several North African countries, among others. Some women wore long, flowing robes and headscarves in bright pinks, golds and turquoises, with sequins and metallic thread; others wore jeans, long shirts and headscarves.

As the prayer began, people stood shoulder to shoulder, heads bowed in unity. Later, they brought their hands to their knees; they went down on their knees and touched their foreheads to the ground, palms pressed flat beside them.

After the traditional prayer in Arabic, Rashed Nizam, chairman of the "Shura," or "consultative" Council of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, gave the "Khutba," or "sermon." He congratulated the community on completing Ramadan.

“Celebration comes after sacrifice,” Nizam said. “We finished 30 days of Ramadan; that was our preparation for the entire year.”

During Ramadan, Muslims fast, give to the poor, do good deeds and pray, bringing them closer to their creator, 23-year-old Lamees Abdul-Kafi said. It was a month of control, like recharging a battery, Mohammed Rafiuddin, another young adult, said.

Nizam asked the audience to share sweets with friends and talk to people of other faiths. To decrease prejudice, he said, people need to learn about Islam.

“The Quran burning in Gainesville, Florida, has been canceled, 'Alhamdulillah,' or 'thanks be to God,'” Nizam said. “Americans are standing against this (Quran burning), and this has raised awareness about Islam.”

Nizam encouraged Muslims to practice their religion and forgive.

“Forgiveness is an act of deliberation," he said. "It shows strength, not weakness.”

After the sermon, women kissed one another on the cheek and hugged while giddy children ran around with candy, balloons and presents. The men shook hands and embraced one another, saying, “Eid Mbarak,” or "congratulations." There were hundreds of smiles and happiness in the air as families spent the day off together and thought about the prospect of eating all day. 

Emil Kapili, former secretary of the Islamic Center, found Nizam's sermon consistent with current events. 

“(The sermon) reflects the need for Muslims to educate the people around us,” Kapili said. “We are the minority. If the majority doesn’t understand the minority, they can hurt or demonize us. Worst enemy of humanity is ignorance."

He said this is why the first commandment that God gave in Islam was Iqra, which means read, increase knowledge and seek knowledge. 

Rafiuddin, who lives in Kansas City and is visiting his parents in Columbia this Eid, also thought the sermon was good.

“There are a lot of negative images in the media right now,” Rafiuddin said, mentioning "burn Quran day" and the controversy over locating a mosque near ground zero. "A lot of people have misconceptions. We can change peoples’ misconceptions by leading by example."

Nadia Irsheidat, who emigrated from Jordan and has lived in the U.S. for 10 years, found the sermon encouraging and its message resonant for non-Muslims as well.

“It reminds us of the meaning of Islam, which is peace,” Irsheidat said. “The meaning of Ramadan is giving and sharing, that’s the whole point. ... The Eid is just like a reward for what we have done for the past 30 days.”

Kapili was also rejoicing and felt a sense of accomplishment.

“We have done our best to increase our worship of God,” Kapili said. “Increase our sensibilities to others, needy, oppressed, underprivileged. It’s all about giving, give money, donate, give your heart.” 

Irsheidat was happy to speak about her community and faith but was frustrated with ignorance. 

“Our problem is we get judged without people asking questions,” Irsheidat said. “Come to me, I will answer you and you can think about it. But don’t judge based on nothing.” 

For Ibrahim Felifal, a teacher at the Islamic Center, Islam is about community with Muslims and non-Muslims. 

“All Muslim-Americans love America,” Felifal said. “(The sermon today) is Islam, the other is not Islam.”

The Eid community dinner is being held Sept. 18. Ahmed Habib, past president of the Islamic Center, said the goal is to invite non-Muslims to the dinner.

“We are trying to extend out to our neighbors,” Habib said.

Four or five non-Muslim families will join him for dinner at his home.

“They are our neighbors," he said. "They invite us on Christmas time.”

Habib is concerned about the picture of Islam that Muslims and non-Muslims are seeing in the media.

“I tell my children, Islam does not propagate violence, what you hear is not necessarily Islam,” Habib said. “Islam teaches be kind, the worst thing you can do besides lose your faith is to hurt your brother, Muslim or non-Muslim.”

Nizam emphasized it is important for Muslims to learn their religion, practice it and share it with others.

“Islam is a message of peace, love and worship,” Nizam said. “There is only one God and the same message comes from all the prophets.”

Said Kapili: “We worship the same God that Christians do.”

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Gary Blankenship September 10, 2010 | 8:07 p.m.

I do believe that the muslim religon wants to dominate the world. I believe that any religion that calls for killing other humans can not be one tolerated here in America. Why do they not stand up and say that jahhad is wrong, killing your children is wrong, beating your wife is wrong? Why do they not stand up and say hate in any form is wrong. If the koran says to kill, then change the koran. None of the leaders will stand together and say stop the above. How can we ever trust people who teach hate?

Gary Blankenship

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 10, 2010 | 8:22 p.m.

(“(The sermon) reflects the need for Muslims to educate the people around us,” Kapili said. “We are the minority. If the majority doesn’t understand the minority, they can hurt or demonize us. Worst enemy of humanity is ignorance.")

I beg to differ.
I believe the worst enemy of humanity is inhumanity.
Far better to explain why there are factions of clerics who advocate for jihadist terrorism and their desire to weaken America with infiltrators and the expansion of Sharia Law.
But then again, why would a religious man choose to ruin a swell party with hardcore, bone chilling facts? Especially on the eve of September 11th.

Anyone pray for the surviving family members of 9-11 during this Ramadan shindig? Did their hearts and minds go out to the poor souls who died on that day? Or is the Florida preacher's rethinking of Koran burning being cheered as our government puts the screws to citical speech towards Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism as the building of the Cordoba Mosque becomes symbolic of another fatah?

I'm no Imam, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
God bless America. Keep your Sharia Rule in the desert sands.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 10, 2010 | 8:43 p.m.

("Map: Where 9/11 Victims' Remains Were FoundThe Post published this map showing where human remains of victims from the September 11, 2001 attacks were found by firefighters. The paper says, "Here's the chilling proof that Ground Zero stretches well beyond the boundaries of the World Trade Center site, and reaches close to the proposed mosque and community center." Yes, the Park 51 community center and mosque, two blocks away from the WTC site, is in the zone.")

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez September 10, 2010 | 9:09 p.m.

@Ray Shapiro that map is quite a reality check if you will. Most shocking.

Both Christianity and Islam need to mature spiritually first before any real peace can be achieved.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith September 10, 2010 | 9:15 p.m.

@ Gary Blankenship

They can't forswear jihad, because it's part of the Qaran (Koran, Kur'an). Removing it would be similar to deleting part of the New Testament. The requirement of practicing jihad comes directly from Muhammad.

I think a significant part of the problem in the United States today is that most Americans haven't a clue regarding the history of Islam. I just finished reading Robert Payne's book on that subject for the third time (the third time since I bought the book, not the third time this year). Other histories are also available.

In fairness (from Islamic history) it appears that Muhammad didn't originally seek bloodshed, but that he and his disciples (who were relatively few at that time) were forced to either fight or be wiped out. But once established, jihad was off and running.

Among Payne's observations is that Muslims have no democratic tradition. Turks might argue that point, but there are few Islamic democracies. Even in Turkey it was the iron will of an army officer, not Muslim clerics, that created a reasonably democratic Muslim state.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 10, 2010 | 9:33 p.m.

Gee Ray, so no human remains were ever found on the dump of a building? You might want to check out some other buildings found within two blocks of Ground Zero, from a link on the page you posted:

The second-to-last is a gentlemen's club, while the last picture is the building that will be torn down and rebuilt. Which is worse, or should you really have a say in someone's private property at all?

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez September 10, 2010 | 9:58 p.m.

Would you let anybody with this background build next to you?

Don't get me wrong I have Muslim friends but even they denounce this kind of activity and quite sternly at that.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 10, 2010 | 10:00 p.m.

Yea, John, I read through that website, but I still choose to exercise my right to "say" and voice my opinion and I'll raise you one...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 10, 2010 | 10:20 p.m.

BTW, I listened to the Keep Columbia Free radio interview this evening and it was interesting how Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness was changed to Life, Liberty and PROPERTY.
I tend to agree with the PROPERTY interpetation as discussed here...
("Life, Liberty, and Property Are Inseparable
By Tom Mullen
What is property? It is that which an individual rightfully owns. Included among every human being's property are his mind, his body, his conscience, and his actions. Every act of mind and body undeniably belongs to the actor, including that act which he engages in more than any other: his labor. To deny someone's right to ownership of his mind, body, or labor is to make him a slave.

It is labor that allows each individual to sustain his existence and pursue his happiness. All consumption must be preceded by production. Production can only be achieved through human labor. In fact, there is no way for an individual to pursue any goal, whether material, intellectual, or spiritual, without exertion. Even the search for God requires an intellectual and spiritual effort -- it cannot commence without labor.")
Of course, this is only a piece of the puzzle...There are many more pieces...

(Report Comment)
Johanna Somers September 11, 2010 | 1:06 p.m.

Gary and Ray, I ask you to ask your questions to some Muslims in the community. Speak with actual people who are Muslim and educate yourselves on their culture and beliefs.

Nizam, the Chairman, did comment on 9/11.

People believe Muslims didn’t show any reaction after 9/11, Nizam said. “That’s not true, we lost our own people. Every mosque made a statement that this is against Islam,” Nizam said.

“Muslims never supported killing, we lost close to 400 Muslims on 9/11,” Nizam said.

(Report Comment)
Peter Bukhari September 12, 2010 | 3:25 p.m.

Gary Blakenship, Please read The Bible and see for yourself the intensity of violence that is contained in its pages. There are calls to kill children and women and old people in The Bible. Let me give you some examples. If you are interested I will give you some more references.

Let me mention just a few verses from the Old Testament and New Testament and tell me what you say about them:

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgash ites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you. And when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (Deutronomy 7:1-2)

“When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword. Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you… Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes (Deuteronomy 20:10-17)

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves. (Numbers 31:17-18)

Even in the New Testament we read the following statements attributed to Jesus saying to his disciples:

“I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence. (Luke 19:26-27)

"Do not think that I have come to send peace on earth. I did not come to send peace, but a sword. I am sent to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Matthew 10:34-35)

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez September 12, 2010 | 3:40 p.m.

I found this site to be quite educational and the videos very informative.

My question is why do this at the site of Flight 93 if it is not as a lot are claiming a symbol of victory?

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez September 12, 2010 | 3:58 p.m.

@Peter Bukhari yes the examples in the Old Testament were so that God's chosen people would not defile themselves with idols,false gods,doctrines,unhealthy living and idol worshiping which was a very common thing amongst all of those nation in the day. It even says in the Old Testament and the New Testament making reference to the God of Israel is a very jealous God for His chosen people and that is not only for the Physical House of Israel but for the Spiritual House as well. There were also penalties given as if God's chosen people did not follow the word that was given unto them and to this very day both the Physical and the Spiritual House of Israel are suffering the consequences of not following what God had told them to do long ago.

(Report Comment)
Peter Bukhari September 12, 2010 | 4:28 p.m.

@Carlos Sanchez,

So for the violence in The Bible you want to look at the context and give an explanation but for The Quran you just want to pull some sentences out of the context and smear the entire religion of Islam. I get it! :)

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez September 12, 2010 | 5:00 p.m.

@Peter Bukhari no but things do need to be put into context. Do you know how exactly radical Islam came into being? It is quite the interesting story really. Same as how modern day Christianity came into being too and both have been perverted and twisted by their radical followers since their inception into main stream society. I do not bash the good Islamic followers as claim but if you do not look at the entire grape vine or the orchard how are you to tell the good grapes from the rotten grapes?

(Report Comment)
Peter Bukhari September 12, 2010 | 6:43 p.m.

@Carlos Sanchez,

Please listen to this video and make up your own mind.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 14, 2010 | 12:41 p.m.

("Johanna Somers September 11, 2010 | 1:06 p.m.
Gary and Ray, I ask you to ask your questions to some Muslims in the community. Speak with actual people who are Muslim and educate yourselves on their culture and beliefs.")

What makes you think I haven't?

(Report Comment)

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