Islamophobia holiday

Talk about bad timing. Eid al-Fitr, the three-day celebration that concludes the month of Ramadan, ends on an unfortunate date this year: Sept. 11. And that is causing problems for some planned celebrations like the customary Eid festival that was canceled in Fresno.

It’s also going to give me a chance to discuss another Mitchell Landsberg story for the Los Angeles Times:

“We thought it might be misunderstood and create a wave of attacks on our faith and community,” said Imam Seyed Ali Ghazvini, the center’s religious leader. “It’s really just a community celebration that happened to occur on 9/11. … The way some local media outlets are attacking our faith and community created a serious fear among members of this community.”

Muslims around the country are expressing similar concerns about the timing of Eid al-Fitr, a three-day festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and is marked by celebration and gift-giving.

For those keeping score, Landsberg has had a difficult run since taking over the LAT’s neglected religion beat. The good is here; the bad is here, here, here, here and here.

Certainly, this story about Eid celebrations has its shortcoming too. At first I thought it was pretty solid, but each time I combed over it I was more troubled by missing voices, thin “trend” demonstration and dominance of the near-Ground Zero Mosque narrative in this story.

To start, the quote right after the this-is-a-national-trend paragraph is fairly rote comment from a CAIR spokesman blaming Islamophobia. To be sure, Islamophobia is real. But I don’t really see the connection here.

While Hooper’s is a voice readers have come to expect in a story like this — a cheap quote offering an unsurprising insight, a la going to Tony Perkins with a story about evangelicals and abortion — the other voices here are very limited. Dedicated not to the timing of Eid al-Fitr so much as the national sentiment toward Islam, Landsberg quotes only polar opposites: either anti-Islam extremists or those promoting tolerance and appreciation of Muslim traditions.

This story also might be overgeneralizing a bit. The Fresno festival is the only one known to have been canceled. And the Muslims around the country expressing similar concerns seem to just be Maher Hathout, “a physician who is a senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles.” (No mention is made of his notoriety, though I don’t think any was needed.)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has compared the plans for the center to Japan erecting a building next to Pearl Harbor.

The controversy has contributed to what some Muslims and others say is a recent upsurge of anti-Muslim sentiment in this country. There have been demonstrations against a number of plans to expand or build mosques, including one in Temecula; and a Florida church has declared Sept. 11 to be “International Burn a Koran Day.”

The debate has entered political contests around the country, and some Muslim leaders contend there has been an orchestrated campaign to motivate conservative voters through anti-Islamic fervor. “It has a lot to do with the ramp-up of the election cycle,” said Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs of the Islamic Center of Southern California.

Indeed, more is going on here than just the NYC mosque and the Fresno Eid festival. But it’s not really discussed.

In that vein, this feels not like a bird’s-eye-view trend story but like two smaller stories sandwiched together — a localizing of the NYC mosque story with a very interesting hook about some bad timing. Unfortunately the story of those stories that’s already gotten a lot of attention ends up overwhelming what intrigued me when I read the headline “Muslims fear backlash as festival falls near Sept. 11.”

PHOTO: Eid meal, via Wikipedia

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  • R.S.Newark

    Isn’t it also confused by the fact that the event was planned by the terrorists to coincide with the ending of Ramadan?

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    No, in 2001 Ramadan didn’t begin until November, so the Eid celebration wouldn’t have occurred until December.

  • Dave G.

    To be sure, Islamophobia is real

    I’m sure it is. But would someone define Islamaphobic bigotry for me? Not what it is, but how you recognize it.

  • John Pack Lambert

    Actually, I never had heard of Mather Hathout before, and I still only vaguely understand the objections to him.

    Are Muslims violent radicals like Louis Farrakhan or are they violent radicals like Osama bin Laden? I guess there are other options, but the media never deals with the tensions inherent in the beganing, and often plays Muslims who emphasize racial justice as “moderate” when they are radical revolutionaries who really seem to use racial issues as an excuse to destablize democracy.

  • Ann

    Muslims are not the only ones to fear backlash. Americanss are in more danger, especially if they are in the Middle East.

    Local clergy coming together for a response to the Florida church that has declared Sept. 11 to be “International Burn a Koran Day.”

    A United Methodist Church will host a program where Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians will speak about their religions and unite in prayer.

    “Larry Reimer, the minister of the United Church of Gainesville, said since the plan to burn the Quran has been reported internationally, local clergy have to condemn it loudly.

    “Silence in the face of their statements can be misconstrued as agreement, and I think it’s important for all of us to speak up,” Reimer said.

    Humeraa Qamar, the president of the Gainesville Interfaith Forum, is worried about the repercussions of Dove World’s plans, for soldiers stationed in the Middle East and, as a Muslim parent, for her children.

    But she is hopeful that the counter-events will offer proof that Gainesville is a tolerant place.

    The UF chapter of Students for a Democratic Society will voice its disdain by protesting across from the Dove World property on Sept. 11.”

    Published 8-25
    “An armed Christian organization which had pledged to protect a Florida church as it holds “International Burn a Quran Day” withdrew its support from the event Wednesday, saying it “does not glorify God,” according to a posting on its website.

    Right Wing Extreme, which describes itself as a Christian conservative group, also said in the posting it is asking the Dove World Outreach Center, based in Gainesville, Florida, not to hold the event “for the reason that it may diminish the work of the Holy Spirit to witness to Muslims.””

    “Muslims and many other Christians, including some evangelicals, are fighting the church’s plan to burn the Quran. Religious leaders in Gainesville have planned an event billed as a “Gathering for Peace, Understanding and Hope” on September 10 as a response to the church’s proposal.”