- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2001

A postage stamp commemorating the Muslim community's two most important religious holidays will be issued this fall by the U.S. Postal Service.

The stamp, which is the first ever to bear a phrase in Arabic, will pay tribute to the Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr festivals, which are celebrated on separate dates in winter.

About 75 million Eid stamps will be released to the public on Labor Day weekend, postal officials said last week.

The postal service chose to spotlight the country's Muslim community after it received more than 6,000 letters from Muslims, most of them children, who urged the government to include their heritage on a postage stamp.

"Our children always felt that Americans didn't accept them," said Aminah Assilmi of Kentucky, who is with the International Union of Muslim Women, one of the groups that began the letter-writing campaign.

"Now, with this stamp, our children feel like they're real Americans," Ms. Assilmi said.

In 1999, U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, introduced a bill, calling on the Postal Service to issue a stamp that recognized the two Islamic holidays. The Muslim community is one of the fastest growing segments in Mr. Davis' district, which is home to six mosques.

"Muslims are a growing and vibrant part of our community," Mr. Davis said. "They are our friends, neighbors, doctors and merchants. They have strong family values which they renew with their families and friends during Ramadan. Their sense of discipline, obedience and community during Ramadan is inspiring to us all."

The stamp, which was designed by Mohammed Zakariya of Arlington, bears the Arabic phrase "Eid mubarak," which loosely translated means "May your religious holiday be blessed."

Eid al-Adha marks the end of the hajj, the annual period when Muslims make their pilgrimage to Mecca. Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of the Ramadan fast.

There are an estimated 7 million Muslims in the United States, according to figures posted by the American Muslim Council in Washington. About 300,000 of them live in the Washington metropolitan area.

"Having a stamp that represents our culture and our ideas makes us have our own niche in our society," said Aly Abuzaakouk, the council's executive director. "It brings us to the table with the rest of the American mosaic."

Some say the stamp also shows an acceptance of the Islamic faith.

"This is the first time in a national sense that Islam is being acknowledged," said Mr. Zakariya, who worked on the stamp's design for 18 months. "This stamp is a sign that our faith has become part of the American fabric of other faiths that exist in this country."

The Eid stamp will be issued as part of the postal service's "Holiday Celebrations" series.

It will be the fifth stamp that recognizes an ethnic group in the Holiday series. Christians have stamps that celebrate Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, while the Jewish community has one that pays tribute to Hanukkah. Blacks have one that recognizes Kwanzaa and Hispanics have a stamp that celebrates Cinco de Mayo.

Asians, so far, have nine of the 12 Chinese New Year stamps, each featuring one of the 12 animals associated with the Chinese lunar calendar.

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