Members of the Islamic Society of Ridge Meadows are hoping to clear up misunderstandings and ignorance about their religion with a celebration of Eid al-Fitr.
Muslims around the world celebrated the three-day festival starting on July 6 this year, marking the end of the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sun up to sun down.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the faith, the other four being: the testimony of faith or uttering the words that there is no God worthy of being worshipped except God and that Mohammed is his prophet and messenger; saying prayer five times a day; the giving of charity or alms, which is generally 2.5 per cent of one’s annual net worth; and last is the performance of the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are financially and physically able.
It is the first of two Eid holidays that are celebrated each year by Muslims. The second is a four-day celebration starting around Sept. 11, called Eid al-Adha ,or the festival of sacrifice, which is held to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son to God.
Ahmed Yousef, president of the Islamic Society of Ridge Meadows, says Eid al-Fitr is a celebration that brings family and friends together.
“As Muslims, we are happy to share all of our festivities and celebrations with the rest of the community,” said Yousef.
“The times during which we live make it significantly more important that we open up and share more and more of our teachings of our faith and of our day to day conduct with others,” he explained.
Yousef says there is a lot of misunderstanding about the Muslim religion, and media coverage of it is negative in many respects.
“We feel during the times in which we live right now, with the current events that are happening, we certainly feel the need to explain our religion. Not so much to defend it, other than to simply explain and clear up a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of ignorance that’s out there with numerous people,” said Yousef.
“The religion does not call on one to be violent. Quite the contrary, the religion punishes those for being violent,” he added.
Yousef explains that in the Qur’an, God says that to take a single life is to take the life of all mankind, and to spare a life is to spare mankind.
“This is how great of an emphasis is given to human life and the extent of value [a life is] in Islam,” he said.
The biggest misunderstanding of the religion, Yousef said, is by terrorists who commit atrocities around the world.
The Islamic State, or ISIS militants, have claimed responsibility for the latest acts of violence in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where 20 hostages were killed in an attack at a popular bakery, suicide bombings in Baghdad that killed 250 people and in Saudi Arabia that killed four security officers, also the attack at Ataturk Airport in Turkey that killed 45 people and injured hundreds, and the beheading of Canadian Robert Hall by the Islamic group Abu Sayyaf.
“I like to call them terrorists or be-headers because they really have nothing to do with the religion of Islam. They are simply terrorist thugs who have their own agenda. Unfortunately, they are using our religion as their flag,” said Yousef, adding that most of the victims worldwide have been Muslim.
“They have committed these atrocities and these mass killings against other Muslims, much more so frequently than against non-Muslims,” said Yousef.
The Islamic Society of Ridge Meadows was established six years ago and is now serving a growing community in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
Members will be celebrating Eid al-Fitr starting at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Fraser Room at the Maple Ridge Public Library at 130 – 22470 Dewdney Trunk Road.
They will welcome guests and dignitaries.
Shaykh Ali, the keynote speaker, will be giving a talk on the significance of Eid al-Fitr, followed by a potluck with food made by various nationalities in the community.
The free event runs until 1 p.m. and is open to all.
Yousef said members will be happy to answer questions about Islam at the event.
“We are part of the community here. We live in Maple Ridge, many of us work in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area, as well, and we are next-door neighbours,” said Yousef.
“And, much like everyone else, we enjoy sharing our faith and practices with the rest of the community.”