Thousands Join for Eid Observance

January 1, 2007

Author: David Mendell

Source: Chicago Tribune,1,1250895.story?coll=chi-newslocalnearwest-hed

As images of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's hanging hit television screens and newspaper pages across the globe, Muslims gathered Sunday in the United States to mark Eid al-Adha, a holiday that celebrates sacrifice and praise of God.

In the Chicago area, thousands of Muslims donned formal attire and attended prayer services in mosques, community centers and other meeting places. Close to 10,000 prayed in a vast ballroom Sunday morning in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

The annual services took on heightened attention and a certain incongruity in the aftermath of Hussein's execution. Although many Muslims attending the Rosemont services were reluctant to focus on the former Iraqi dictator's death, they said it was an extremely poor decision to carry out the act during a Muslim holy period.

Muslims stressed that they came to the services to praise Allah and not to criticize events on the other side of the globe. Still, Muslims expressed displeasure at the swiftness and timing of the execution.

"This is a happy day for us, and we are unhappy that the Iraqi government chose this time for this," said Qazi Sanaullah, a Pakistani native and U.S. Postal Service carrier who lives in Hanover Park. "What would it have hurt to wait a couple more days? They didn't think."

Muslim leaders said it would be difficult to find anyone on Sunday who felt sympathy for the dictator, even though most, like Hussein, are Sunni. But they noted that in the United States, a predominantly Christian nation, executions are not carried out over the Christmas season.