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Thousands of Triangle Muslims gather to celebrate one of the religion’s most special days

Thousands gather in Raleigh to celebrate Islamic holiday

Members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh celebrated the end of Ramadan with over 8,000 people at the Exposition Center on the North Carolina Fairgrounds on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.
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Members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh celebrated the end of Ramadan with over 8,000 people at the Exposition Center on the North Carolina Fairgrounds on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.

More than 8,000 Muslims gathered for prayer at the N.C. State Fairgrounds on Tuesday in celebration of the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday. The event focused on the attendees’ month-long efforts to better engage with themselves, their community and their religion.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sun-up, around 4 a.m. in the Triangle, until sun-down, around 8 p.m., Imran Aukhil, a spokesman for the Islamic Association of Raleigh, said. The time spent without food or drink is meant to allow Muslims to think about their actions.

“Ramadan is such a special time for us,” Aukhil said. “We celebrate having unity in our community, where thousands come together, and we celebrate the spiritual progress we’ve made and sacrifices made during the month.”

Marking the end of the month of Ramadan, Eid is one of two holidays recognized by Muslims worldwide, he said.

Tuesday’s event featured two prayer sessions, one at 7:30 a.m. and one at 8:30 a.m., and a sermon led by the Triangle’s two Imams, who are the spiritual leaders of the Muslim community.

“The celebration today goes beyond just the rituals and the Islamic traditions, it’s really a celebration of the potential of the human spirit,” Imam Mohamed AbuTaleb said.

The sermon was centered around Muslims being positive forces in their community, and brought in Muslim historical figures as examples, said Ali Zelmat, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Association of Raleigh.

For Zelmat, the most impactful part of the event was the diversity of the attendees.

“It’s really awesome when you come together and the person on your right is from a different country and the person on your left is from a different country,” she said.

After the morning prayer sessions, the holiday continued to be celebrated throughout the day, with Muslims visiting each other’s homes, eating food, donating to charity and giving gifts to children, Aukhil said.

Next year, the Wake County Public School System will give students a day off from school at the start of the Eid holiday on May 13, 2020.

“In a time when divisiveness is the order of the day,” Zelmat said. “It’s so exciting to see people come together and celebrate.”

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