The 9th anniversary of 9/11. Silent vigils, memorial services, and commemorative events will be held around the USA. Foreign press outlets will undoubtedly devote a few minutes to replay the horrific footage while remarking on the solemn observances across our country.
But for one-quarter of the world's population, this day will also be one of joyful celebration. No, they will not be reveling in the tragic events of 9/11, but rather they will be celebrating the completion of the 30 days of fasting during Ramadan with the traditional 'Festival of the Breaking of the Fast', commonly known as Eid al-Fitr. 1.6 billion Muslims around the world will usher in this holiday in a similar manner. Although the actual celebrations may differ culturally from country to country, it's safe to say that prayer, feasting, and family visiting will definitely feature prominently in almost every Muslim household and community. In addition to these typical holiday traditions, every Eid usually culminates... in an evening of fireworks. Yes, fireworks. Fireworks on 9/11/10, to be exact.
Islamic holidays follow the lunar calendar, which is approximately 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. Last year Eid al-Fitr fell on September 20, 2009. Although the Eid holiday may begin on September 10 this year, the celebrations customarily last for three days, hence the advance notice explaining this year's unfortunate coincidence with America's 9/11 tragedy. The importance of the two Eid holidays in Islam is akin to Christmas and Easter for Christians, or Rosh Hashannah/Yom Kippur and Hannukah for Jews -- all holidays which carry historical and religious significance as well as time for family festivity.
So if you happen to catch the tail-end of a news broadcast which shows Muslims and fireworks on 9/11, I hope you'll remember this brief, honest explanation of the rituals which may go unexplained by some who claim to be neutral observers. American Muslims will be especially careful in their behavior for fear of being misunderstood, but to cancel their Eid celebrations will be allowing those terrorists to win. And haven't they caused enough damage to America? Several Muslim lives were also lost on 9/11, and many non-Muslim families who lost loved ones on that fateful day understand that American Muslims and Islam were not responsible for 9/11. To those who cannot understand this important distinction and who still believe that all American Muslims must somehow be collectively punished so that they feel ostracized in their own country, I ask: "Are Christians and Jews similarly demonized for the actions of a few?" It would be a great shame if a religious holiday observance is postponed at the behest of those who do not have America's best interests and highest ideals at heart.
In this highly charged climate where open protests against proposed mosques across the country can be seen on the nightly news, it's sad, but inevitable, that Islamophobes will seize this coincidence to portray American Muslims as un-American. But fall is around the corner and I, for one, am looking forward to a fresh wind to usher in an end to the open season on Muslims.