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Celebrating Eid in America

Opinion

June 5, 2019

Eid was celebrated across America yesterday (June 4). By now most mosques here follow national Islamic organizations regarding the date for this festival. One of the largest such organizations, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), had announced days ago that June 4 would be the date for Eid.

Within a 15-minute drive from my home are two large mosques that hold Eid prayers for a total of six sessions. Such has been the growth of the Muslim community in this country over the past few decades that mosques conduct multiple sessions of Eid namaz. In fact, several mosques offer more than one prayer session even on Fridays. Some of the larger mosques also conduct Friday prayers at satellite locations so people may join close to their place of work. Some of these are in rented spaces and some in spaces made available to the Muslim community courtesy of a church or civic organization.

So, over the past four decades that I have lived in the US the ability of American Muslims to practise their faith has become increasingly convenient. This also reflects the investment Muslim community itself has continued to make in setting up mosques and Islamic centers.

The Muslim community has come a long way since the late 1970s when I first arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio. The only option for Friday prayers available then was a small apartment rented by a few Muslim families. Today, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati is one of the largest and most vibrant Islamic community centers in the country.

While Muslims, about 1-2 percent of US population, continue to gain acceptance and make progress in America, the last decade or so has also presented us with growing challenges. There has been a well-organized and well-funded campaign across the US of creating fear and hatred of Muslims, giving rise to the term 'Islamophobia'. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization, defines Islamophobia as "fear or hatred of Islam or Muslims".

It has taken American Muslims a while to fully grasp the organized nature of these anti-Muslim entities. CAIR has just issued a report on Islamophobia in America titled 'Hijacked by Hate'. In this well-researched and well-documented report they have identified 39 well-funded groups that are active in spreading suspicion against and hatred of Muslims and their faith. Importantly, CAIR has tediously documented the sources of funding of such groups.

These 39 organizations have received funds in tens of millions from over 1000 different sources. Most alarmingly, these hate groups are set up as charitable nonprofit organizations so donations to them are tax-deductible. Additionally, a legal structure called 'donor advised fund' can also be used to make donations to these hate groups anonymously – making it nearly impossible to trace their real source. In spite of that, CAIR has managed to trace sources of most of these funds fueling anti-Muslim hatred.

Making matters worse is the overtly anti-Muslim attitude of the Trump administration, starting with the president himself. He has often tweeted anti-Muslim messages, many of them totally devoid of facts. The CAIR report has also identified at least a dozen Islamophobes – those that have some association with anti-Muslim hate groups – as having prominent roles in the Trump administration.

While these challenges remain, there is also much that gives us encouragement. When President Trump first enacted his travel ban from several Muslim countries, Americans of all faiths and stripes took to the streets in the thousands to stand in solidarity with the Muslims of America. It is hoped that in the end it is these reasonable voices that will prevail.

The writer is a Pakistani-American freelancecontributor based inWashington D.C.

Website: sqshareef.com/blogs

Twitter: @SQS12

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