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Somalis celebrate for Eid al-Fitr amid contrasting realities of joy and gloom
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ED I T O R I A L
HIIRAAN ONLINE

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

 

As millions of Muslims celebrate across the world yesterday for Eid al-Fitr - a festivity that wraps Islam’s holiest month of the year, Ramadan - the Somalis, at different corners of the world, find themselves in contrasting realities that come with the jubilation of the Eid and the gloom of a war that has prolonged over a decade now. The expatriates are joyous, maximizing their Eid with pleasurable activities, eating tasty food, and immersing with family and friends. But for those at home, the horrific war has deprived them from everything, enmeshing the population between a debilitating hunger and the agony of a perpetual war that ultimately become multi-pronged as the country slipped into a brutal occupation led by Ethiopian troops and a batch of former warlords opposed by an emboldened Islamic insurgency.

 

But for many Somali expatriates, the predicament with this Eid has been felt, pausing many with a juxtaposing sense of collective moral and personal obligations. “As we celebrate the Eid today, it is also important to contemplate about the fate of those unfortunate in Somalia,” said Mohamed Farah, an English professor at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. “Because of the enormity of the crisis in our home, our happiness today is not complete in the sense that a majority of our people are not sharing this with us,” added Professor Farah with a sorrowful tone in his voice.

 

In the past 21 months, Mogadishu has being the center of a conflict that affected the country in an unprecedented proportion. It is, probably, in that backdrop that a growing number of Somalis in the Diaspora feel different about the current war. Last two weeks alone, nearly a hundred of civilians have died as more than 200 others were injured by sweeping bombardments from the Amisom - an African Union troops mandated to keep peace in Mogadishu - devastating mainly the Bakara Market and its vicinity, which is the city’s commercial lifeline.

 

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“This is what concerns us more than anything else, because our country is devoured by so many vicious wolves, both from the international and the regional levels, bringing to us all kinds of sad news as we read the news from Somalia at our computer screens; thus denying us the joy we deserve to live at for days like this” wrote Abdirizak Omar, in an email from Canada, expressing his Eid as a one discounted by the ongoing mass scale human tragedy in Somalia.

 

Eid celebrations kickoff across the U.S.

 

Seattle, Washington: Somalis come out today in huge numbers, flocking to the Convention Hall where the Eid prayer was taking place. “It is unbelievable to see the sheer number of people, all happy with the excitement of the Eid” said Abdirahman Hussein Bullale. “I was lucky to be in the first wave of people who prayed at 8:45 a.m., because the place couldn’t accommodate all at once” retorted Bullale when asked about the number that attended the Eid. “Other than the parking issues and the traffic congestions at Kind Drive, our Eid here was so amazing in totality. The kids were all well dressed, with beautiful white robes, Khamiis,…and parents’ faces were so reflective with the joy they felt inside” said Bullale describing the overall atmosphere in the Eid.

 

Falls Church, Virginia: Adam Hassan is the Director of Somali Cultural Center, an educational organization that caters the Muslim community in Virginia. Speaking this morning with HOL on the phone from the busy hall at the Hotel in Falls Church as the prayer was unfolding, “We are now praying the fourth time after conducting three fully-packed hall prayers, though our plan was arranged only for three groups, starting first at 7:30 until 10:30 in the morning, but alhamdulilah, its Allah’s grace.” Mr. Hassan estimated the number to be over a thousand, mostly Pakistanis, Somalis and Americans of all ethnic stripes. “After the Eid, we set up a whole day program for the kids, families and the community at large to experience an Islamically-organized fun way of enjoying the Eid until the Maqrib time at the evening, instead of going to the Chuck E Cheese’s and so forth,” added Hassan, who is respected in the community.

 

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Known to many Somalis as the little Mogadishu, Somalis in Minneapolis have celebrated Eid today, as most of them prayed in the city’s great Convention Hall. “Oh, it was so dazzling to see that many of people celebrating together for the Eid” said Ashkiro Omar who is a long time resident in Minnesota. The State of Minnesota houses the largest Somali community in North America, blending in the city with a vibrant touch of an ancient culture and great entrepreneurship that is visible in the Twin Cities.

 

“The weather in this Eid seemed much better than the preceding ones,” expressed Ali who opted to skip two classes from Minneapolis Community and Technical College to observe the Eid holiday. “But unfortunately, in the past eight days alone, our community has been shocked by senseless killings of more than four kids, including this last Monday,” said Ali, who added that the community is now concerned about the escalating pattern of “gang” violence that targets on the innocent people.

 

Boston, Massachusetts: With over six to eight thousand dispersed across the state, but united in their community affairs, the Somalis in greater Boston have joined in for two-rounds of Eid prayers in Jamaica Plain’s small Masjid Al-Taqwa, spilling two-thirds of the worshippers to pray outside on the parking and across the street in one of the well-organized Eid events in Boston. “The Masjid offered us valet services, accommodating all the women and children to pray inside in three floors, while the men were praying outside and in another hall next to the Center” said Fartun Hassan Baalle, an active student at UMass Boston. “I came here with my mom, my sisters, their kids and four of my best friends. I don’t know how to describe it, but it really feels a deep joy with euphoria, having everyone of our community here with bright faces, hugging and forgiving one another, wishing Eid Mubaraks, not to mention seeing our Muslim brothers and sisters of other countries here with us today” remarked Fartun who dressed elegantly for the Eid, adding that her day was just “beginning” now.

 

Fartun has also expressed how much she missed her father, who is in Wardheer, a town in central Somalia. With that, she is not alone. A large percentage of Somali expatriates live with one or no parents at all. This is due to the result of the war that disintegrated families as they embarked on their journey to safe places. But to some in the diaspora, Eid does not only bring a joy, it also brings a familiar sadness as individuals relapse into a cycle of memories that remind them their beloved ones, according to a social scientist.  

 

Abdullahi Yasin, (15), has spent the night before preparing to wrap together hundreds of free cookies and candies for the kids who came to the Eid yesterday. Looking as the cool teenager he was, Abdullahi gave more than several candies for every child, attracting all the kids to him as he entertained them with funny jokes. “Man, it was fun! Thanks to my sister Astur. She bought sacks of candies for me to give out to the kids. Hopefully, these kids won’t forget this Eid” said Abdullahi, hoping that he will hand out candies next Eid for fun.

 

“I enjoyed the sermon, which went on in three languages, Somali, Arabic and English. It was really very refreshing as the whole air was filled with a sense of brotherhood and happiness” said Fowzi Adawe who brought his family to the prayer, Anisa (5), and Amani (3) dressed up with pretty and colorful Hajibs, an Islamic garment for girls. “What a blessing of weather that is perfected by a great day of Eid! See, no rain, nor is it cold,” stated Mr. Adawe, gazing at the sky with a smile.

 

Abdishakur Adan Elmi is a taxi driver. He has taken off for the day to enjoy the Eid with his family. “We are done with the Eid prayer now. So, we are going to Chuck E Cheese’s with 40 other Somali families and their kids” said Mr. Elmi who added jokingly that the fun is not going to be limited to their kids, but for the parents as well. “I want to take this opportunity to send my best wishes of Eid Mubarak to those brothers and sisters who are confined today in the harsh warzone environment, that is Somalia, who don’t  have the plenty we got here” said Elmi with hopeful sentiments.

 

Lewiston - Auburn, Maine: The Somali community in Maine had also their share in the Eid celebrations yesterday. The community and college students from the towns nearby have came together to observe the Eid by praying in one of the biggest halls in Lewiston. Abdirahman Qambi is an active member in the Somali community in Lewiston. “We welcomed the Eid with great happiness, praying our “Salatul Eid” with thousands of other Muslims” said Qambi speaking to HOL on the phone from Lewiston.

 

The Somali community in Lewiston had a difficulty settling there after an anti-immigrant controversy was spurred by the mayor and other hate groups, but that ended as Somalis introduced the small town with a diversity, hard work spirits. Today, Somalis have gained a reputation and growing business presence in the heart of Lewiston’s downtown main streets. The community has recently bought a multifaceted Masjid center in Lewiston, catering to a growing Somali population of more than five thousands.

 

“As much as we are happy today, yet we can’t avoid but remain concerned about the harsh state of our people in Somalia. The sermon was all about unity, helping each other, especially those poor among us. The bottom line is we have to do something to help alleviate the suffering of our people in Somalia and now is the time” said Qambi, whose concern about the misery of Somalis at home is also shared strongly by other expatriates.

 

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