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Celebrating the Eid at the Mall of America

New America Media, Commentary, Ahmed Tharwat Posted: Sep 22, 2009

Ramadan, the glorious fasting month for Muslims has finally come to an end. No more Iftar under the big tent at Marina Grill and Holy Land Bakery, no more sweets Katife, Konafah, and no more California Medjool dates to break the day fast. It is like 30 days of Christmas celebration have just vanished before your eyes like an unfinished sweet dream.

Now it is time for Eid, a celebration of a complete realization that life goes on , even after Ramadan. For 30 days, you have been cleansing your body and your soul of all excessiveness of life. Now it is time for Muslims in America to go out there and unapologetically celebrate their end of Ramadan Eid, and in post 9/11 America this is way overdue.

My daughter and I started the Eid celebration by rushing to the nearest Mosque for the early Prayer. In the segregated prayer room, the unexplained gender separation praying always perplexes her. After the brief chanting of God's greatness, Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, we began the Eid prayer.

The Imam in his three-piece suit gives a short sermon, thank God for that, as American Muslims, Imams seem to be a long series of divine threats.

We need to stay true to our faith, he tells us Dont listen to the extremists' rants. Listen to your heart. Right on brother.

At social hour, after warm kissing and hugging, bagels replace cookies, the traditional Eid snacks. We present Elediah a few new fresh dollar bills to our eager happy kids. Then we all headed to of all places, Mall of America, the shopping Mecca of the world, the consumers' cathedral, where millions visit to worship Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and to unveil the secret of Victoria.

For Muslims in America, Mall of America has become a new cultural sanctuary. Thousands of American Muslims of all ethnicities, nationalities, races and creeds gather to celebrate OUR own native customs and identities. Next to the Betty Crocker Bakery, a few Egyptian men were catching up on their latest jokes about politics in their home country. Several Palestinian women watch nervously as their kids vanish into the maze of Macedonia in the indoor playground.

A group of Iraqis enjoy a rare peaceful moment by the indoor garden, while not too far away, some Somali men kneel down in the corner, getting ready for the noon prayer. Next to them, a cluster of young Pakistani men are listening to their iPods and comparing latest features on their iPhone. By the Rainforest Caf, some West Africans in their crisp white robes and hats seem oblivious to the strange artificial noises coming from the tropical theme restaurant.

On the rollercoaster Muslim boys ride with Muslim girls, who laugh as their hijabs fly over their faces above their unconcerned parents. In the middle of the mall, a few Muslim women, cloaked with their traditional black dress Burks, walking together in concert. Their black unified bodies eclipse the front window of Victoria's Secret, seemingly unaware of the displays of the lifeless models of women trapped in skimpy lingerie. We are not shopping, just celebrating. There are no shopping bags to carry, just our kids, No culture idol to worship except our Allah, no fashion trends to follow, only our traditions. It's Christmas without the shopping craze. Every year, thousands of American Muslims turn the biggest shopping center in the world into a non-shopping mall, where the biggest gift we get is our free spirit.

Happy Eid to everyone!

Ahmed Tharwat is the host of Belahdan, an Arab-American television talk show in Minnetonka, Minn.

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