- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2006

At a recent prayer service in Sterling, there was talk of decorations, gifts and the upcoming holiday, but the conversations at the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque were not about Christmas.

They were about Eid ul-Adha, the large Muslim festival that begins Dec. 31 and is celebrated in ways similar to the Christian holiday — family visits, toys for the youngsters, a large meal and commemoration of a religious history.

During a month filled with holiday cheer, some of the estimated 6 million Muslims living in the United States say Eid ul-Adha gives them a chance to celebrate their faith with a nod to Western traditions.

Jean McTigue, 33, went home after a recent prayer service to hang decorations with her family. She is American-born with Irish and German roots, but she converted to Islam when she was 18. Instead of a Christmas tree, she now puts up custom lettering that reads “Happy Eid.”

She, her husband and five children get together with family members who are Christian for an inclusive “holiday party” that her mother throws.

Farrukh Shahbaz, 41, who moved to Northern Virginia from Pakistan six years ago with her husband and three daughters, said she embraces the traditions of both countries.

“I tell my kids, Christmas is the American Eid,” she said, “and our Eid is coming in a few days.”

While others were Christmas shopping this month, her daughters were at the mall buying their Eid gifts.

“I bought gifts for my kids’ teachers,” Mrs. Shahbaz said. “The kids exchange gifts with their friends. We have the feeling that Christmas is celebrated all around us, and we’re happy to see people busy and buying gifts. But they understand that we have other occasions, and we’re not missing anything on Christmas.”

During Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice, Muslims remember the Koranic and biblical story in which God orders Abraham to sacrifice his son atop a mountain, then rewards Abraham for his obedience by replacing his son with a sacrificial animal.

The three-day festival also marks the end of the hajj, or holy pilgrimage to Mecca.

Eid traditions for Muslims around the world include morning prayers, visits to family members and a big meal.

It is customary for families to give one-third of a ceremoniously slaughtered lamb to charity, but many choose to give money to the poor.

“We make sure to apply the lesson of giving to the needy,” said Rizwan Jaka, 34, who is president of the Muslim center.

Mr. Jaka was born and raised in the United States, and his Pakistani immigrant parents would get a Christmas tree when he was a child.

He and his wife, Priscilla Martinez, tell their children that “it’s just not our tradition. But we teach them to respect others’ traditions,” Mr. Jaka said.

Like many Muslim families, the Jakas are careful not to associate religious holidays with material objects or the commercialism of the season.

“If your faith is strong, if you’re Christian or Muslim, the commercialism shouldn’t affect you,” Mr. Jaka said.

For Mrs. Shahbaz, adhering to stringent rules is not as important as allowing her Muslim children to be well rounded with exposure to all traditions.

“We are very good Muslims, but we are very liberal in the sense that we respect other religions,” she said. “Living in this country, how can we not?”

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