Several thousand Muslims gathered in Uniondale on Wednesday to mark the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month, and leaders afterward denounced terrorist attacks carried out in the name of their religion.
The morning prayers at the indoor Mitchel Athletic Complex also started a three-day festival called Eid al-Fitr that involves special meals with family and friends, and visiting one another’s homes.
The event was organized by the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, one of the largest mosques in the region, because the mosque itself could not accommodate the large crowd. Mosque leaders said as many as 5,000 people attended.
Similar, though smaller, services took place at the estimated two dozen mosques on Long Island, which is home to about 80,000 Muslims.
For many of the worshippers in Uniondale, the event was both a celebration of an end to up to 16 hours a day of fasting, and a woeful reckoning of yet more terrorist attacks carried out by self-proclaimed Muslims, including one in Orlando, Florida, who massacred 49 people last month in a nightclub.
“For us this is a difficult time. We are at a crossroads,” Sheikh Ibrahim Negm, a visiting scholar at the Islamic Center, told reporters after the service. “It would be unfair to demonize an entire faith because of the acts of some lunatics and idiots. These lunatics and idiots are found in every major faith tradition.”
One worshipper, Siddique Farooqi, 35, a marketing executive from Woodbury, said the recent terrorist attacks are “tragic because once again we’re having to explain that Islam is a religion of peace and Muslims are peace-loving people, and that these people, these acts of terrorism, they don’t represent us in any way, shape or form.”
He added: “That is not what we stand for. We are here as Americans and we want to be peaceful, law-abiding Americans just like everybody else.”
Isma Chaudhry, president of the Westbury mosque, said a positive aspect of Wednesday’s event was how Nassau County officials and police fully cooperated with the Muslim community, offering use of the site and providing a police presence.
“We all have an American dream. I have the same concerns as my neighbor,” Chaudhry said.
Ramadan started on June 5. It commemorates the time when the Prophet Muhammad received the Quran, the holiest book in Islam, from the angel Gabriel in the year 610.
Ramadan involves long stretches of fasting, but the faithful said that makes it more spiritually fulfilling.
“It just gives you that feeling of purity, clarity in the mind as well. Just to know you are closer to God during that period,” said Sadd Ghauri, 25, a Commack native who is a technology analyst on Wall Street.
Ghauri’s cousin, Omar Khan, 31, of Astoria, Queens, said Ramadan also gave him a feeling of unity and community, since more than one billion other Muslims around the world were also fasting.