Muslims across Long Island will mark one of the holiest times of the year starting Friday, but for many it will be with mixed emotions.
The three-day Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia known as the hajj. It starts with special morning prayers at mosques, followed by festive meals at home with relatives and friends.
But some Muslims say there is a pall over the holiday, with anti-Muslim sentiment again on the rise, a natural disaster unfolding in Texas, and controversial comments by President Donald Trump about Pakistan.
“It’s a happy occasion but not a happy time,” said Nayyar Imam, head of the Mount Sinai-based Long Island Muslim Alliance. “It’s scary. Every day you wake up and you think, what will be next?”
Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, a major mosque, said growing negative feelings toward Muslims — including a ban on immigration to the United States from some Muslim-majority nations — “makes it so clear we have to drive our energies and good will to support one another.”
Dr. Hafiz Rehman, a leader of the Masjid Darul Qur’an mosque in Bay Shore, said many Muslims were talking about Trump’s recent comments on Pakistan when he outlined his plans to increase the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Trump said Washington could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations.”
Rehman responded that Muslim-majority Pakistan has done much to fight terrorism, and suffered the deaths of thousands of its people at the hands of terrorists. “Pakistanis have not taken it in a light way,” Rehman said of Trump’s comments.
Meanwhile, Muslims also have been saddened by the deaths and destruction left by Tropical Storm Harvey in Texas, and are mobilizing to send aid, Rehman and Chaudhry said. Long Island is home to an estimated 80,000 Muslims.
Eid al-Adha, the faithful believe, commemorates the biblical patriarch Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, at God’s command. Abraham did not kill his son, as God spared the boy. Instead, Abraham sacrificed a ram.
During the festival, many Muslims have an animal — usually a lamb or goat — slaughtered. They typically distribute one-third of the meat to the poor, and another third to relatives and friends. They keep the final third for themselves.
Eid al-Adha comes one day after the hajj, during which more than 2 million people arrive at Mecca, considered the holiest city in the religion of Islam. Muslims who are physically and financially able are required to make the pilgrimage once in their lifetimes.