Augusta Muslims delay carnival out of respect for 9-11

Today, Muslims in Augusta would have gathered for a carnival, complete with food and games, to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Islam's holiest month.


"A moon bounce simply isn't appropriate for the day," said Imam Majed Sabke, of the Islamic Society of Augusta.

The celebration was moved to Sunday. Today, Sabke said, is a somber day for all Americans, Muslim-Americans included.

Hundreds gathered Friday for Eid-al-Fitr, a shared feast after a month of daily fasts during Ramadan. The holiday commemorates the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.

The celebration typically continues with a carnival on Saturday, but Sabke said he was concerned the event might be mistaken as a celebration of the terrorist attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people nine years ago today.

Muslim holidays move about 11 days earlier each year, based on lunar months, which are 29 or 30 days long. Because the end of Ramadan is timed to the sighting of the new moon, it was possible that celebrations could fall on Thursday, Friday or today.

While some Muslims determine the date when the new moon is sighted locally, many rely on the decisions of the Fiqh Council of North America, a panel of Islamic scholars and leaders. In 2006, the group asked Muslim astronomers to project future dates of Ramadan. It was decided four years ago that this year's Eid would fall on Sept. 10.

"We want people to differentiate between 9-11 and Eid," Sabke said. "It's complicated, because of the lunar calendar. A few years ago, Eid came with Christmas. Then, Eid came with Thanksgiving. This year it comes with Rosh Hashana and 9-11. We go by the first day of the new moon."

This year, perhaps more than most, Sabke has received calls of support from the community, he said.

A Florida pastor's plans to burn Qurans today moved some pastors to call and apologize on his behalf, Sabke said.

"They feel guilty that this man is standing under the cross and talking like that," he said.

On Friday night, Sabke spoke at the Congregation of Children of Israel, which celebrated the second day of Rosh Hashana.

It's evidence, he says, of the strong interfaith relationships that have emerged since Sept. 11, 2001.

Sabke said he doesn't want to take the community's support for granted. Though Americans are divided over the construction of a community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan, Sabke said, little opposition has emerged in response to plans for a new mosque in Columbia County.

The Islamic Society hopes to break ground this year on the mosque off Old Evans Road. The $4 million project is expected to have prayer space for up to 1,300 people.

Plans for the New York City mosque prompted a Pew Center poll in August, which found that 38 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Islam and 35 percent believe it's more likely to encourage violence than other religions.

On Friday, a sheriff's deputy stood watch locally while hundreds of worshippers gathered for prayers and a feast, but that's normal procedure for any large gathering at the center.

It's been many years since the Islamic Society was vandalized, and even then, good emerged from the incident, said Aladien Fadel, the Islamic Society's community outreach coordinator.

"Back then, our community was alien to us. We know each other better now," he said. "On Sept. 11, some people came and they tried to deface our mosque. But then, there were other faith leaders who stepped forward and said, 'No, we'll wash it off ourselves.' "

Now, more than ever, it's clear that unity is needed, said Mansoor Kazi, a 27-year-old engineer who attends the Islamic Society.

"We can no longer as Muslims feel as if it's our community versus their community. Whether we're Muslims or Christians or Jews, we're all living in the same community with the same problems," he said. "When we talk about Sept. 11, it's not like it only affected a subset of us. It affected all of us, a lot of Muslims included."

Meeting of faiths

WHAT: A gathering of community leaders and representatives interested in a new interfaith alliance in Augusta

WHEN: Noon Sept. 29

WHERE: The Islamic Society of Augusta, 3416 Middleton Drive

CALL: (706) 868-7278



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