BRISTOL – A pastor in Florida threatened to burn Qurans on Sept. 11. Altercations broke out over the weekend because the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. And here in Connecticut right-wing Christians protested outside of a Bridgeport mosque.
These events only made Islamophobia rear its ugly head, but Mukhtar Suleiman of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, said it couldn’t stop Muslims from celebrating the end of Ramadan with an Eid ul-Fitr celebration at Lake Compounce on Sunday. He said that recent headlines have sparked an important dialogue in the community.
“More people know more about Islam now,” he said. “They’re not afraid to ask questions. It’s opened up people’s eyes.”
John Mertens, Connecticut Independent candidate for U.S. Senate, was the only politician at the event. He spoke to the crowd about his experience growing up in a prejudice home and how his views changed after making Muslim friends in college. Now, he said, he wants to help make America a better place by educating people about Islam.
“Americans have all kinds of freedoms, including the freedom to be ignorant and that’s what we have to fight,” he said.
Laila Mehar, a freshman at the University of Connecticut, said she thinks people are becoming more aware of Islam and hopes it will helps spread Islam’s message of peace.
Suleiman said that’s why having the Eid celebration at Lake Compounce was important. It didn’t exclude Muslims from the rest of the community, he said.
“They can see we’re no different from anybody else,” he said.
About 1,400 Muslims from across Connecticut and New York attended the event, which included a halal meal and an area for prayer.
“It’s so nice that Lake Compounce allowed us to do this,” Sania Mahmood, a recent college graduate and youngest member of the MCCT board of trustees said, noting that so many people and businesses have a hidden fear of Islam.
The MCCT hopes to host the event at the amusement park again next year, but plans are still tentative.
The next Islamic holiday, Eid-Ul-Adha, will be celebrated Nov. 17.
Click here for more photos of this event.
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