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Notes from America
Celebrating the Eid at Mall of America
By Ahmed Tharwat
Ramadan, the glorious fasting month for Muslims has finally came to an end, no more Iftar under the big tent at Marina restaurant, no more California Majoul dates to break the long day fast, and no more evening conversation while sipping tea and munching sweets Katife, Konafah. It is like 30 days of Christmas has just vanished before your eyes. Now it is time for Eid el Fitr, (the breaking fast feast) a Muslim celebration of food and what is good in life, a realization that life goes on even after Ramadan.
You have been for 30 days cleansing your body and your soul of all excessiveness of life. Now it is time for Muslims in America to go out and unapologetically celebrate the end of Ramadan Eid in post 9/11 America: this is not as simple as it seems.
The Eid celebration starts by rushing to the convention center in downtown Minneapolis; where thousands of Muslims mostly Somalis walk in groove dressed in traditional clothes: they are heading for early Eid Prayer. The traffic is jammed, lots of drivers are cautiously wondering what convention this maybe! On the same day, there was a wedding trade show at the convention center, where lots of young women with their fashionably wedding gowns peacefully intermingle with Muslim women whom their dresses seem to consult with only one fashion design.
Muslims from all corners of the world congregated in the gender segregated prayer room: this didn’t deter the children from running around and crossing the gender divide. After the brief Eid chanting of God’s greatness, “Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar,” we began the Eid prayer. In the big praying area thousands of Muslims are standing harmoniously in huge rows; they’re like well-wishers chanting and kneeling in concert. Their choreographed up and down movements are where everyone kneels in such rhythm: it is only broken by a few untrained children who are slowly getting the right motion note. After Eid prayer, the Imam moves to the podium to give the post Eid prayer sermon, and nothing disperses a Muslim crowd as an Eid sermon, where suddenly the majority of prayers start their exodus out of the praying hall undeterred by the Imam call to stay for the sermon. “.. the Eid sermon is deity and a must for all Muslims” he screamed!
At Social hour, after warm kissing and hugging, bagels replace cookies, the traditional Eid snacks. Parents are presenting Elediah – a few new dollar bills – to their eager happy kids. Then lots of Muslim families head to all of the places: the Mall of America, the shopping Mecca of the world, the consumers’ cathedral, where millions visit to worship their cultural icons; Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger and to unveil the secret of Victoria Secret’s beauty mystique.
For Muslims in America, the Mall of America has become a new cultural sanctuary. Thousands of American Muslims of all ethnicities, nationalities, races and creeds gather to celebrate their own native customs and identities. Next to the Betty Crocker Bakery, a few Egyptian men are catching up on their latest political rotting in their home country.
Several Somali women watch nervously as their kids vanish into the maze of Macedonia in the indoor playground. A group of Syrians enjoy a rare peaceful moment by the indoor garden, while not too far away are some Somali men kneeling down in the corner, getting ready for the noon prayer. Next to them are a cluster of young Pakistani men listening to their iPods and comparing the latest features on their iPhone. A few Saudi visitors are standing by the palm trees wondering about the new pilgrimages coming to the mall. By the Rainforest Café, some West African Muslims in their crisp white robes and hats seem oblivious to the strange artificial noises coming from the tropical-themed restaurant.
On the rollercoaster Muslim boys ride with Muslim girls, who laugh as their hijabs fly over their faces above their unconcerned parents. In the middle of the mall, a few Muslim women, cloaked with their traditional black dress Burks are walking slowly together, their black unified bodies eclipse the front window of Victoria’s Secret: they are seemingly unmoved by the displays of women in skimpy lingerie. At the mall they are not shopping, just celebrating. There are no shopping bags to carry, just their kids, no cultural idol to worship except their god, no fashion trends to follow, only their traditions. It’s Christmas without the shopping craze. Every year, thousands of American Muslims turn the biggest shopping mall in America into a non-shopping mall if only for one day.
Happy Eid to everyone!
Ahmed Tharwat is the host of Bel-Ahdan, an Arab-American television talk show in Minnetonka, Minn.
His articles published in national and International Publications
He blogs at “Notes from America”
Follow him on WWW.Twitter.com/ahmediatv