SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – An estimated crowd of 4,000 Muslims celebrated the EID holiday at Rowland Park Wednesday, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
“We had an unbelievable turnout,” Islamic Society Of Central Jersey President Ariff Patel said. “Everyone is having a great time seeing family and friends, coming for the prayers and just hanging out.”
Ramadan is a month-long observance in the Islamic faith that is a time of reflection and fasting each day from sunrise to sunset.
Wednesday’s celebration, marked by morning prayer sessions, food, games and fellowship, started at 7:30 a.m. and went until 1 p.m.
Food was available from several vendors, offering a variety of dishes that were both cultural and normal festival-type faire.
Children played in several inflatable attractions as well as getting temporary tattoos and face painting.
A photo booth was also available at no charge to attendees.
“After 30 days of fasting, this is one of our major holidays,” Samir Kilani, of Dayton said. “We want to enjoy (the holiday) with the same people and the same culture. We bring our kids so they can enjoy the holiday with their friends.”
Samir’s wife, Hauia, said that it is meaningful to join with others in the Muslim community to celebrate EID.
“We don’t see each other a lot, everyone is busy,” Hauia said. “(Attendees) come from all over the state to celebrate.”
Patel said the event has grown during the past several years and probably would have drawn an even larger crowd if it was on a weekend.
South Brunswick Police Capt. Jim Ryan said that traffic around the park on Broadway Road was lighter than normal for this event and went very smoothly throughout the celebration.
Despite temperatures in the upper 80s and bright sunshine through clear, blue skies, attendees dressed in traditional attire didn’t seem to mind the heat and humidity.
There was plenty of beverages and ice cream to keep the crowd cool and hydrated as well as shade in the picnic pavilion.
“It is a big deal for everyone to come together and celebrate the end of fasting,” South Brunswick resident Mona Mostafa said. “Seeing family and friends and celebrating the end of a really incredible month.”
Unlike the past celebrations of this kind, however, this year’s event had a cloud of sorts hanging over it with a barrage of terrorist attacks during the holy month, including the Islamic holy city of Medina in Saudi Arabia where a suicide bomber killed four guards not far from the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad.
The ISCJ joined 99 other such organizations of the New Jersey Muslim Coalition in the state denouncing all of the attacks, including the shootings in Orlando, Florida that killed 50 people at the Pulse nightclub.
“We join all people of good conscience in categorically condemning the terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the most recent atrocities in Baghdad, Iraq and in Medina, Saudi Arabia,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased and the injured and the victims of all these attacks on humanity around the world. It is obvious that terrorism coming from any source, knows no borders and humanity is the victim of this ominous phenomenon. Ironically, the vast majority of the victims of these attacks are Muslims.”
The group also said that those responsible for the attacks are not part of the true Islamic faith.
“The terrorists who continue to perpetrate these heinous crimes against humanity know no religion. They represent nothing more than a deviant and evil death cult bent on sowing discord amongst the civilized world and people from all backgrounds,” the statement said. “All the faiths we represent call for peace, mercy, love, tolerance and helping the needy.”
Those attending the celebration on Wednesday joined in that condemnation.
“This (celebration) is really what Muslims are,” Mostafa said. “We are really just happy, joyous people, not violent in any way. We are not trying to cause trouble. This (day) is what it is. Just us getting together as normal human beings to join with family and friends to have a good time.”
Patel said that all Islamic organizations in the state are condemning the recent attacks and that the perpetrators are not truly following the faith.
“It is completely against Islam in every single way,” he said. “We have spoken out against this. It is not in the name of Islam. They are indiscriminately killing Muslims and non-Muslims. This is barbarism.”
Patel said that all nations and faiths must rise together to stop and prevent these terrorist incidents.
“We all have to cooperate and work together to figure out how to stop this,” he said.
Patel said the celebration is much more of a true picture of what Islam represents.
“This (celebration) is the proper, correct reflection of Muslims and Islam,” he said. “ISCJ and other groups are peaceful. There is a small group that hijacked it. We are doing what we can, within our power and control, to stop these things.”