Politics & Government

Tacoma Muslims end month-long Ramadan observance

Tacoma Muslims celebrated the end of their holy month with prayer, food and a piñata for the kids.

Members of the Mas’Alah Muslim Center celebrated Eid al-Fitr on Tuesday. The holiday marks the end of Ramadan, the month-long period of worship and repentance in which Muslims abstain from food or drink from sunrise to sunset.

“I want to celebrate, to just be with the community,” said Emad Ahmed, who attended Tuesday’s ceremony with his two sons, Amro and Ahmed. The boys, ages 3 1/2 and 6, didn’t skip eating, but their father strictly followed the rules of the fast.

Ahmed and his sons are immigrants from Northern Sudan, and while he’s been in the U.S. for 2 1/2 half years, the boys have spent only a month in the states.

Their family is not alone. The Hilltop-based center has welcomed immigrants from around the Muslim world, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

The center has also attracted a large following of African-American converts in Tacoma.

About 20 members of the center took part in the morning prayer on a basketball court outside McCarver Elementary School. Several others joined them later for a barbecue meal, gifts for the children and more prayers throughout the day.

Abdlateef Godfry converted to Islam in 2002, three months after serving a 90-day prison sentence for driving without a license and unpaid traffic tickets.

Godfry said he saw the positive impact Islam had on many family members. He said it was their example that inspired him to convert.

“It’s a beautiful life,” Godfry said.

Many of the same reasons attracted Rasheedah Shahdid. The 81-year-old former small business owner converted to Islam when she was 15 and living in New York.

Shahdid, 81, said she was drawn to the religion after seeing to positive effects it had on her community. The local Mosque taught young people basic home education skills like how to cook and clean, while also teaching lessons from the Kuran.

“It taught you how to take care of yourself,” she said.

Shahdid said she could not take part in this year’s month-long fast because of her high blood pressure and problems with her kidneys.

“I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t go without fluid that long,” she said, dressed in a white silk dress waiting for prayers to begin.

She said Eid holds special significance for Muslims across the globe, as it represents a reward from God and the ending of a sacred month.

Tuesday’s 10 a.m. prayer was a small group compared to years past. Many local Muslims already took part in the lunar-based Eid ceremonies Monday night, said Bayyan Muhammad, the imam at the center. Traditionally, Ramadan begins and ends when followers of the faith see the crest of the moon.

The local celebration stood in sharp contrast to communities in restive parts of the Muslim world, including the Gaza Strip, where three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas have killed more than 1,000 Gazans and displaced tens of thousands others. Israel has seen more than 40 soldiers and three civilians killed.

Internationally, the mood was subdued among Muslims coping with tragedies such as car bombings in Baghdad, Malaysian aircraft disasters and the displacement of more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“Eid has no flavor here at all,” said Umm Ammar, who fled her country three years ago with her family and now lives in an encampment in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley. “We want to celebrate Eid in Syria, in our homes.”

Despite the violence in the world, Muhammad stressed the message of peace and welcoming other religions.

“We can’t be fighting with each other and siding with each other,” the Tacoma imam said. “We should all go out and remake the world, ‘cause it needs help.”