Finally, on Sept. 1, the commemorative Eid stamp was issued. Ten days later, hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing about 5,000 people.
And American Muslims found themselves explaining that mainstream Islam is a peaceful religion and has nothing to do with such terrorists sects as Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, the group suspected for the attacks. But to a confused American public, the much-anticipated stamp began to resemble a symbol of the enemy. "We saw it selling in the first few days, but then came the holocaust of September 11, and unfortunately it has become a catastrophe for the stamps, too," said Aly R. Abuzaakouk, executive director of the American Muslim Council.
The Eid stamp commemorates the two most important Islamic festivals, called eids, in the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Adha and Eid al-fitr. The holidays are decided by a lunar calendar and follow the holy month of Ramadan, a period of fasting and penitence. This year, Ramadan begins Nov. 17.
The stamp has a deep blue background and the Islamic greeting "Eid Mubarak" written in golden script. The phrase can be translated to mean, "May your religious occasion be blessed." Islam is the world's fastest-growing religion. Religious experts say Islam is like all faiths, with some extremists who mix politics and culture under the guise of religion.
The Postal Service does not track individual sales, so there are no hard figures. But anecdotes suggest that the stamp may not fare well in some parts of the country, including Kansas City. In some areas, people have asked the Postal Service to stop selling the stamp, a request that has been refused.
Some avid stamp collectors are avoiding the stamp, said Gina Walter, of the Show Me Philatelic Center in Kansas City. Some people say they are avoiding the stamp for patriotic reasons, Walter said. "I really thought that this was going to be a big stamp," Walter said. "It is a beautiful stamp. And it has nothing to do with the attack."
A likely big seller will be the United We Stand stamp, released nationwide Monday. It depicts an American flag flying in the breeze. The Postal Service printed 75 million of the 34-cent Eid stamps, and officials say a few post offices have sold out. Muslim organizations are launching a buying campaign. They hope to reach their goal of having the stamp reprinted twice, a designation that can make it a permanent stamp.
But Mohamed Zakariya, the calligrapher who drew the stamp, thinks its fate may be sealed. Zakariya was walking near his home, three miles from the Pentagon, on Sept. 11. He heard the explosion as the hijacked plane hit. His wife, working in a nearby office, saw flaming debris through a window. "You can drive by and see that horrible, ghastly hole," Zakariya said.