Violent deaths of hundreds of Muslims across the world cast a shadow over Lancaster community's celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Even as they acknowledged that, community leaders who spoke Wednesday to hundreds of Muslims, many wearing colorful chadors and robes, focused on a larger message of peace and love.
Eid (pronounced eed) is to be a joyous time; a chance to gather with friends and family and to relish the fact that the month of daylight fasting has come to an end.
Guest speakers, at the Thursday celebrations organized at Lancaster County Convention Center, included Khateeb Brother Iftekhar Hussain, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray and city fire Chief Tim Gregg.
A Khateeb Brother is a member of the community chosen to lead prayers and deliver the sermon during Eid celebrations.
Hussain, a native of Bangladesh who now lives in Malvern, told the gathering that Ramadan “is a time to align your will with God’s will” and to “reprioritize what is valuable in your lives.”
Gray, an Episcopalian, said the words Hussain used in his address — love, peace, concern for the environment and care for the poor — could have been part of an Episcopal church sermon.
“Our religions, both Christian and Muslim, were founded in peace and love,” he said. “We need more of that today. Not the murder of innocents.”
This Ramadan has been marred by terrorist attacks. More than 260 people died in the past week as the result of bombings and shootings in Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh.
That was not lost on Dr. Shakeel Amanullah, chairman of the board of trustees of the Islamic Community Center of Lancaster which sponsored this year’s Eid celebration.
“There are a lot of people in the world who are hurt and deeply saddened by these activities,” he said.
He cited a verse in the Quran, that reads: “We have created nations and tribes that we may recognize one another and do good deeds.”
“And that,” he added, “is what we are supposed to be doing.”
Terrorists distort message
Dr. Shahid Babar, medical director of Lancaster General Health Physicians Internal Medicine Hospitalists, said terrorist attacks by self-identified Muslims distort the real message of Ramadan and of Islam.
“I don’t even call them Muslims,” Babar said of ISIS and al-Qaida. “If they don’t follow the Quran, they’re not Muslims at all.”
Babar, who is a native of Kuwait, described this past weekend’s attack by a suicide bomber at The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, as “a shock to the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world.”
Rizwan Mohammed, an electrical engineer, said that during Ramadan, Muslims are not even supposed to curse, much less attack others.
“So these people who bombed Medina are not Muslims,” he said.
Farhan Brelvi, a registered nurse at Ephrata Community Hospital, said he doesn’t pay much attention to some of the derisive political rhetoric aimed at Muslims in this year’s presidential campaign.
“The biggest effect,” he said, “is on my kids.”
That concerns his wife, Joanna, a physician at Ephrata Community Hospital. A native of Indianapolis who converted to Islam, she said she worries her children, who she described as “openly Muslim,” may be bullied at school because of their religion.
“My hope is they will be an example and help educate people that Muslims are not all terrorists.”
Amanullah said the Muslim community in Lancaster has donated school backpacks to students in the Lancaster city schools and most recently joined with volunteers from FeedPhilly Islamic Society of Greater Valley Forge and several corporate sponsors to distribute food packages to the needy in the Lancaster area.
“Seventy percent of the donations,” he said, “go to non-Muslims.”