Eid-al-Fitr, A.H. 1431, and The People of the Book
by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
The Center for Islamic Pluralism extends warm greetings to all Muslims on the occasion of Eid-al-Fitr [Ramadan Bairam], A.H. 1431.
Depending on the place of moon sightings, Eid-al-Fitr will be commence in different countries this year. In North America, Eid is expected to begin at sundown, Wednesday, September 8, 2010. Eid will continue through September 11, 2010, about which we offer some remarks below.
We note the unfortunate intersection of Eid-al-Fitr this year with the ninth anniversary of the Al-Qaida attacks on the U.S. Repentance is an Islamic virtue and is especially recommended during Ramadan. While neither we nor Muslims as a whole community bear responsibility for the actions of the Wahhabi terror network, our repentance extends to the sins of all our fellow Muslims.
Some of us, as Muslims living in non-Muslim societies, have a special responsibility to foster good relations with our non-Muslim neighbors and to oppose the spread of radical, fundamentalist doctrines that, historically, have been inimical to Islam. Some of us, as Muslims living in Muslim-majority societies, have an equally-weighty responsibility to free our community from legacies of extremism as well as unjust governance. As Muslims, we see too many of our communities around the world under control by apostles of fundamentalism: Wahhabis, Deobandis who inspire the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, Pakistani jamaatis, the Muslim Brotherhood, the clerical dictatorship in Iran, and the so-called "soft" fundamentalism of the Turkish party headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These factors are not limited to Muslim countries. They also exercise domination over the Muslim communities of the U.S. and have sought such a role in Western Europe and India.
For this reason we suggest that the final day of Eid-al-Fitr be dedicated to clear and substantive repudiation of radicalism within Islam, through speech, writing, and action. Some have suggested that Muslims in the U.S. do public service by cleaning up highways; but the real task comprises cleaning out mosques now under radical leadership.
Eid al-Fitr this year will coincide with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, also beginning at sundown on September 8. In the established Islamic tradition, we offer greetings and good wishes to our Jewish neighbors and friends, as fellow believers in one God and as People of the Book.
The term "People of the Book" has a special resonance this year with regard to Christians. A Christian preacher in Florida has called for burning of the Qur'an on September 11, 2010. We note that this is not an official action of the state authorities. We also point out that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has burned a great quantity of copies of Qur'an, confiscated from Hajj pilgrims and other travelers to the country, when the volumes of scripture of our religion were printed outside Saudi territory.
Muslims have always honored Jews and Christians as "People of the Book" based on their possession of Torah (Tawrat) and the Gospels (Injil). Muslims seek to reinforce the injunctions to reading and study of religious works especially as found in Judaism.
We cannot prevent a local Christian minister from destroying printed books. But we agree with the many non-Muslim leaders who have condemned such an action as an expression of ignorance and bigotry. Banning and burning books as a polemical measure against any faith or doctrine is repellent and unworthy of Americans, in particular, with our essential traditions of free spoken, written, and printed expression.On this basis we appeal to people of all faiths to oppose burning of copies of Qur'an and other sacred texts – whether in America, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.