American Muslims mark the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca with the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, one of the most important events of the Islamic year.
At Masji al-Fatiha, a suburban mosque near Los Angeles, Muslim immigrants from many parts of the world and visitors from several other faiths came Monday for the celebration.
The mosque was founded by minority Muslims from Thailand, a largely Buddhist country, and the Thai immigrant imam, Rahmat Phyakul, points to the Thai lettering beneath the Arabic that proclaims this the first Thai mosque in America.
The theme of this holiday is sacrifice, explains mosque member Ahm Qutubuddin, one of many non-Thais in the mosque and an immigrant from Egypt. The festival recalls a story that is shared with variations by Muslims, Jews and Christians about the patriarch Ibrahim, or Abraham.
“He was asked to sacrifice his son and he obeyed, and for that obedience, Allah – God – gave a goat in place of his son, so he was able to sacrifice that all Muslims all over the world commemorate,” he explained.
The theme of sacrifice carries over to our everyday lives, said Yahia Abdul-Rahman, an Egyptian-born imam at this mosque. He said his message is that “we need to work as hard as we can to establish justice and peace and fairness amongst all people, here in America and in the world.”
The Thai consul general to Los Angeles was a guest at the celebration, his presence a statement of unity, said Rahman Phyakul, who notes that Thais have experienced tensions in their homeland as a result of an insurgency in the southern part of the country.
Even in Thailand, however, the tensions are exaggerated, says Consul General Tanee Sangrat, who says Muslims and Buddhists in Bangkok and elsewhere live and work together.
“What you see in the press is sometimes misrepresented by the reality in Thailand,” he said.
Mosque members say tensions are not an issue here. Thai American Lutheran pastor Pongtep Chutimapongrat says, “We are [all] Thai people” and “friends.”
In the story of Ibrahim, God provided the patriarch with a goat as a substitute for his son, and in some parts of the world, an animal is sacrificed and its meat shared with the poor.
Here, worshippers shared a community meal after the service that blended Middle Eastern food with dishes from Thailand, shared by the the multi-ethnic congregation and friends.