When a wacko minister in Florida with a congregation of 15 members announced that he was planning to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of Sept. 11, it made headlines around the world. But on the eve of 9/11, when as many as 28,000 Muslims gathered on the football field at Jamaica High School to celebrate the holiest day in the Muslim calendar, the media did not notice. With the exception of TimesLedger Newspapers, this event was ignored by the television networks and print media.
The gathering was held on Eid al-Fitr, a day on which Muslims around the world gather to recall the story of the prophet Muhammad and his historic fast. Like their prophet, almost all of those who gathered had fasted for 30 days. In this strict fast, participants cannot eat food or drink anything, including water, from sun-up to sundown.
This was an event that belonged on the evening news. The participants, dressed in their finest traditional garb, packed the field. The message of the day was one of peace and reconciliation.
Speaking to the assembly, Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica center, noted that Eid is a day of joy for Muslims. He expressed hope that people of other faiths would see that Islam is a peaceful religion. “Intolerance is very high, and ignorance,” he said. “But Islam is the most peaceful teaching, the most tolerant teaching. If people want to do something ignorant, such as the burning of the Quran, our response as Muslims should be, ‘Peace unto you’ no matter what.”
To his credit, city Comptroller John Liu took time to attend the ceremony. He spoke of the importance of understanding between faiths. Other elected officials were notable in their absence.
Where were Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams? What a story this would have been for the network news on the eve of 9/11. It seems lately that the media cannot mention the Islamic faith without reference to a terrorist plot or a protest. Columnists and radio talk show hosts delight in finding violent passages in the Quran.
The gathering last week, and similar but smaller events held in Astoria and Holliswood, show what a powerful force for good the practice of Islam is in Queens.