Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan at a ceremony at Mitchel Field in Uniondale on Wednesday. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Anthony Florio

A monthlong daytime fast came to an end Wednesday morning for thousands of Muslims on Long Island as they marked the conclusion of Ramadan and began a major three-day religious festival.

An estimated 3,000 people filled the football field at Centereach High School for prayers that started the Eid al-Fitr holiday, said Nayyar Imam, one of the organizers of the event.

So many people were arriving that traffic got backed up and they had to delay the 10 a.m. start for 30 minutes, he said. With parking lots full, some people had to leave their vehicles down the street.

For many, it was the most important day of the year.

“It's like Christmas and the Fourth of July combined,” said Jalika Diallo, 28, of Shirley, as she arrived for the prayers. Afterward, she said she was headed to a relative's home to enjoy meats that had been marinating for days, among other delicacies.

In Nassau County, two consecutive services at an indoor soccer field at Mitchel Field in Uniondale attracted a total of 4,000 people, organizers said.

Thousands of Muslims also attended services at mosques across Long Island.

In Centereach, some congregants said they were grateful that the local school district, Middle Country, had given students the day off — the first time that had happened in Middle Country.

They urged neighboring districts to do the same. About three dozen school districts on Long Island now give students the day off for Eid al-Fitr.

“I think it’s a really big step, “said Wafa Ulla, 25, who graduated from Centereach High School at a time when there were far fewer Muslim students there. Middle Country this year also hosted a “breaking of the fast” one night that attracted 200 people — with more on a waiting list.

Muhammad Rana, 52, a business owner from Holbrook, said he had to pull his three children out of school in the Sachem district Wednesday to attend the prayer service and family gatherings. 

“It's a must holiday for us,” he said, adding he hopes Sachem and other districts start recognizing it.

Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims and is one of the five pillars of Islam. It commemorates the time when the Prophet Muhammad received the Quran, the holiest book in Islam, from the angel Gabriel in the year 610.

During the holy month, the faithful cannot eat or drink anything, including water, from sunrise to sunset. They also are obligated to perform acts of charity.

Eid al-Fitr is marked by morning prayers and festive meals with friends and family as they break the long fast. The faithful typically wear colorful traditional clothing.

Long Island is home to an estimated 100,000 Muslims, and the community is growing. Suffolk County now has 20 mosques, which for the first time in their history recently formed a coalition to help make their voices heard and to push for causes such as peace in Gaza and recognition by school districts of Eid al-Fitr.

While Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr are meant to be both introspective and joyous times, many of the faithful said the conflict in Gaza had cast a pall over the festivities. Each night at the breaking of the daylong fast, it was hard not to think of the bloodshed and food scarcity there, said Raza Iqbal, president-elect of the Islamic Association of Long Island, a mosque in Selden that is the oldest on Long Island.

“When we break the fast,” he said, “we think of them first.”

A monthlong daytime fast came to an end Wednesday morning for thousands of Muslims on Long Island as they marked the conclusion of Ramadan and began a major three-day religious festival.

An estimated 3,000 people filled the football field at Centereach High School for prayers that started the Eid al-Fitr holiday, said Nayyar Imam, one of the organizers of the event.

So many people were arriving that traffic got backed up and they had to delay the 10 a.m. start for 30 minutes, he said. With parking lots full, some people had to leave their vehicles down the street.

For many, it was the most important day of the year.

“It's like Christmas and the Fourth of July combined,” said Jalika Diallo, 28, of Shirley, as she arrived for the prayers. Afterward, she said she was headed to a relative's home to enjoy meats that had been marinating for days, among other delicacies.

In Nassau County, two consecutive services at an indoor soccer field at Mitchel Field in Uniondale attracted a total of 4,000 people, organizers said.

Thousands of Muslims also attended services at mosques across Long Island.

A man with a young boy joins other Muslims mark...

A man with a young boy joins other Muslims mark the beginning of Eid al-Fitr at Mitchel Field. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

In Centereach, some congregants said they were grateful that the local school district, Middle Country, had given students the day off — the first time that had happened in Middle Country.

They urged neighboring districts to do the same. About three dozen school districts on Long Island now give students the day off for Eid al-Fitr.

“I think it’s a really big step, “said Wafa Ulla, 25, who graduated from Centereach High School at a time when there were far fewer Muslim students there. Middle Country this year also hosted a “breaking of the fast” one night that attracted 200 people — with more on a waiting list.

Muhammad Rana, 52, a business owner from Holbrook, said he had to pull his three children out of school in the Sachem district Wednesday to attend the prayer service and family gatherings. 

Long Island Muslims also commemorated the beginning of Eid al-Fitr...

Long Island Muslims also commemorated the beginning of Eid al-Fitr in Centereach. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

“It's a must holiday for us,” he said, adding he hopes Sachem and other districts start recognizing it.

Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims and is one of the five pillars of Islam. It commemorates the time when the Prophet Muhammad received the Quran, the holiest book in Islam, from the angel Gabriel in the year 610.

During the holy month, the faithful cannot eat or drink anything, including water, from sunrise to sunset. They also are obligated to perform acts of charity.

Eid al-Fitr is marked by morning prayers and festive meals with friends and family as they break the long fast. The faithful typically wear colorful traditional clothing.

Long Island is home to an estimated 100,000 Muslims, and the community is growing. Suffolk County now has 20 mosques, which for the first time in their history recently formed a coalition to help make their voices heard and to push for causes such as peace in Gaza and recognition by school districts of Eid al-Fitr.

While Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr are meant to be both introspective and joyous times, many of the faithful said the conflict in Gaza had cast a pall over the festivities. Each night at the breaking of the daylong fast, it was hard not to think of the bloodshed and food scarcity there, said Raza Iqbal, president-elect of the Islamic Association of Long Island, a mosque in Selden that is the oldest on Long Island.

“When we break the fast,” he said, “we think of them first.”

From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book. Credit: Newsday Staff

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From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book. Credit: Newsday Staff

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