Muslims across the globe gathered last week in celebration of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, the second of two major religious holidays for people of the faith. Eid al-Adha commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God and marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca. On this day, Muslims attend morning prayer and then visit families and friends throughout the day, sharing food and well-wishes. Many partake in the symbolic goat sacrifice, the meat of which is then donated to the poor and/or distributed to other families and friends. Eid celebrations are always something to get excited about. It tends to be a gluttonous day full of colorful fashion, people, and food, but the core of this holiday, sacrifice and sharing, is not lost in the chaos.
I see something really amazing every year. An entire micro-community (Not necessarily micro, since Dallas boasts a Muslim population of over 30,000, the fourth largest community in the country) comes together from all over the world, all walks of life, young or old, rich or poor, and stand alongside each other in the remembrance of God. Beyond the religiousness, there is a spiritual energy that permeates throughout North Texas and extends warmth and welcome to everyone, Muslim or not. I see it in the way police officers help the elderly hurry across the streets to prayer. I see it in the way volunteers distribute water bottles to kids. I see it in the way local churches and synagogues open up their parking lots to accommodate the mosques. And I see it in the way my coworkers curiously ask about why I’m taking off that day.
It is genuine understanding.
Despite how much controversy surrounds Islam, given the continued conflict in the Middle East, hate crimes, negative media interpretations, local incidences like the one with Ahmed Mohammed, and a growing climate of misunderstanding, there is a lot of positivity and good vibes in a fairly conservative place like Dallas. And despite how much has changed in the perceptual fabric of this nation, this holiday felt like those past: warm, full of comfort, and love. The growing Muslim community in Dallas is something to be proud of, but beyond that, I am most humbled by the greater Dallas community that has shown genuine understanding and compassion towards people who might be just a little different.