For nearly a decade, the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno has held a carnival on the Saturday following the end of Ramadan, during a festival that has been called the Muslim equivalent of Christmas. With pony rides, carnival attractions, games and Middle Eastern food, it's a popular event for the community's children.
This year, the center's leaders had a sense of foreboding when they noticed the date on which the carnival would fall: Sept. 11.
This week, after listening to escalating rhetoric over plans for an Islamic community center within blocks of the destroyed World Trade Center site in New York, the Fresno center canceled the carnival.
"We thought it might be misunderstood and create a wave of attacks on our faith and community," said Imam Seyed Ali Ghazvini, the center's religious leader. "It's really just a community celebration that happened to occur on 9/11. …The way some local media outlets are attacking our faith and community created a serious fear among members of this community."
Muslims around the country are expressing similar concerns about the timing of Eid al-Fitr, a three-day festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and is marked by celebration and gift-giving.
How sad that a time for "celebration and gift-giving" has been turned into one of fear because of a calendar date. While I am impressed at the sensitivity of the Muslims who recognize that the date is one which still rocks the emotions of Americans, I am appalled that a nation founded on the principle of religious liberty has reached such a low point in promoting not only that principle but also tolerance for differences.
And so Fresno kids of all faiths will not get their pony rides and will not get a chance to meet with their neighbors of different faiths eager to share their food and their friendship.
And how will the rest of America behave on 9/11? Well, some allegedly Christian yahoos in Florida intend to burn a Koran on that date. Not much sensitivity there, eh?
I am embarrassed by the behavior of those Americans and I am deeply offended by my co-religionists.
And I am ashamed.
Labels: Religious Reich