City of Brass

City of Brass

Eid al-Fitr Mubarak – ??? ?????

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Today is the first day that muslims worldwide will begin to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Having just emerged from Ramadan, we are spiritually cleansed, disciplined, and refreshed. And eager to reacquaint ourselves with the concept of “lunch” !

It’s a mark of the increasing contribution of muslim Americans to society and culture that Eid is commemorated not just by muslims ourselves, but also by our communities and government. One great example that I like to mention every year is the Eid stamp, issued in honor of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha by the US Postal Service. I wrote quite a bit about its history last year, which is really quite inspiring – the stamp was actually introduced on September 1st 2001, and given the events ten days later, was nearly canceled due to Islamophobic outcry. The stamp survived, in part because of the support of President Bush and then-House speaker Dennis Hastert, it must be noted. The White House website describes the artistic process that went into its creation:

The Eid stamp, designed by Zakariya of Arlington, Va., features the
Arabic phrase “Eid mubarak” in gold calligraphy on a blue background.
English text on the stamps reads “EID GREETINGS.”

Employing traditional methods and instruments to create this design, Zakariya chose a script known in Arabic as “thuluth
and in Turkish as “sulus.” He describes it as “the choice script for a
complex composition due to its open proportions and sense of balance.”
He used homemade black ink, and his pens were crafted from seasoned
reeds from the Near East and Japanese bamboo from Hawaii. The paper was
specially prepared with a coating of starch and three coats of alum and
egg-white varnish, then burnished with an agate stone and aged for more
than a year.

Unfortunately the stamp was discontinued in 2002, despite the xenophobic campaign (which probably boosted sales rather than hurt them). Until last year, that is, when it was reintroduced, and the stamp is available again this year directly from the USPS Store online. Unfortunately, the stamp is only available as a $.41 denomination, so you will need $0.01 stamps as well for first-class mail. If enough people purchase the stamp every year, however, then the Postal Service may see fit to reissue the stamp in a “Forever” version. I urge everyone to buy a sheet of the Eid stamps from either the online store or your local post office branch to show our support and keep this wonderful artistic masterpiece alive.

The other great example of Eid celebration in my mind is a relatively new tradition – the lighting of the Empire State Building in green. Last year was the first year that the ESB decked out for Eid, and there are some beautiful photos online. Of course, this drove the usual suspects insane with anger, which was a bonus! :) This year, the ESB will again be lighted in “the green glow of dhimmitude” as per the following schedule:

On this occasion, for the second year, the Empire State Building will
shine its world-famous tower lights in green on Tuesday, September 30
and Wednesday, October 1, 2008 for its annual celebration of
Eid-ul-Fitr. The lighting for Eid is an annual event in the same
tradition of the Empire State Building’s yearly lightings for Christmas
and Hanukah.

We deeply appreciate this recognition of the American Muslim community
by one of the United States’ most cherished landmarks. In celebrating
together with the Muslims of New York City and the United States, the
Empire State Building once again shows itself to be a powerful symbol
in America’s most culturally vibrant city.

(above sent via email from the American Society for Muslim Advancement aka ASMA). If anyone can find pictures from tonight or tomorrow night’s lighting, please do leave a comment and I will post them here.

It is important that we muslim Americans not forget that despite the undercurrent of anger and hate that we sometimes have to traverse, as a rule we are a recognized and valuable part of our society. The examples above matter more than the actions of the diseased few. We belong here, and our Eid is everyone’s Eid, muslim or non-muslim alike.

Terrorists attack Ohio mosque

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Earlier, I mentioned the Obsession DVD that was inserted in millions of newspapers around the country. That DVD paints a rigid and extreme vision of Islam, with intent to mislead rather than inform. Now, the predictable result of that hate-mongering propaganda is beginning to manifest; on Friday, a mosque in Dayton, OH was tear-gassed, with women and children inside:

Baboucarr Njie was preparing for his prayer session Friday night,
Sept. 26, when he heard children in the Islamic Society of Greater
Dayton coughing. Soon, Njie himself was overcome with fits of coughing
and, like the rest of those in the building, headed for the doors.

“I would stay outside for a minute, then go back in, there were a
lot of kids,” Njie said. “My throat is still itchy, I need to get some
milk.”

Njie was one of several affected when a suspected chemical irritant
was sprayed into the mosque at 26 Josie St., bringing Dayton police,
fire and hazardous material personnel to the building at 9:48 p.m.

Someone “sprayed an irritant into the mosque,” Dayton fire District
Chief Vince Wiley said, noting that fire investigators believe it was a
hand-held spray can.

According to fire dispatch communications, a child reported seeing
two men with a white can spraying something into a window. That child
was brought to the supervising firefighter at the scene.

This is the only mainstream media report on the incident so far. A diarist at DailyKos shares an email from one of the congregants, and that account is far more chilling. Some excerpts:

“She told me that the gas was sprayed into the room where the babies
and children were being kept while their mothers prayed together their
Ramadan prayers. Panicked mothers ran for their babies, crying for
their children so they could flee from the gas that was burning their
eyes and throats and lungs. She grabbed her youngest in her arms and
grabbed the hand of her other daughter, moving with the others to exit
the building and the irritating substance there.

“The paramedic said the young one was in shock, and gave her oxygen to help her breathe. The child couldn’t stop sobbing.

“This didn’t happen in some far away place — but right here in
Dayton, and to my friends. Many of the Iraqi refugees were praying
together at the Mosque Friday evening. People that I know and love.

[...]

“The children come into the room, and tell me they want to leave
America and return to Syria, where they had fled to from Iraq. They say
they like me, … , and other American friends — but they are too
afraid and want to leave. Should a 6 and 7 year old even have to
contemplate the safety of their living situation?

“Did the anti-Muslim video circulating in the area have something to
do with this incident, or is that just a bizarre coincidence? Who
attacks women and children?

Anyone who tries to disclaim any link between this despicable attack and the release of 20 million copies of the Obsession DVD is either a fool or a liar. That DVD was intended to bring about precisely this kind of demonization. What is most shocking about the Obsession DVD is that it is most likely funded by the very people you would think would know all too well the wages of this kind of directed hate, scapegoating, and fear-mongering.

Incidentally, it doesn’t stop here. There’s a new Islamophobic film due to be released in early October, in time for Eid al Fitr: The Third Jihad. This is a “tsunami of Islamophobia” that is clearly aimed at influencing the election in November.

Related: coverage of Obsession at Talk Islam. Also, in addition to the report by Richard Silverstein I linked above, see this report by NPR on the Clarion Fund, the secretive organization behind the DVD, and this essay by Sheila Musaji that goes in-depth about the Clarion Fund’s secretive backers.

UPDATE: New details have emerged in the case, including a lack of direct evidence of the irritant, and a can of pepper spray found nearby. More details in this follow-up post

Alayk as-salaam, ya shere Ramadan

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Ramadan is a rare opportunity for the believer, in which all acts of piety are multiplied a thousand-fold. As Ramadan draws to a close, our consciences weigh more heavily with the thought of all the opportunities wasted in which we could have done just a little more devotion and engaged in just a little more prayer. Tonight, by the Fatimid calendar, is the last night of Ramadan and tomorrow is my final fast, with Eid al-Fitr on Tuesday. Others will observe Eid on Wednesday or even Thursday, but regardless of your reckoning, there’s very little time left indeed. Tonight I will engage in late night prayers, from nisful layl to shafa witr, and try to redeem what little barakat remains for the taking. 

Security when Kaaba door opens

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I received these astonishing photos as an email forward, so I am unaware of their origin, but they certainly look legitimate. These are allegedly a glimpse of the heavy security around the Kaaba when the doors are opened by the Saudi authorities. It’s an impressive show of brute force.

Kaaba security - 2Kaaba security - 1

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