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Muslims celebrate Festival of Sacrifice

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POSTED November 29, 2009 2:11 a.m.
The cultural impacts of this holiday weekend stretch far beyond the widespread American celebration of Thanksgiving.

Several hundred local Muslims gathered at Walter Woodward Elementary School Friday morning for the formal beginning of Eid al-Adha – the annual “Festival of Sacrifice” that honors the actions of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in Hebrew teaching) who upon attempting to sacrifice his son Ismail discovered that God had replaced him with a ram.

With a short prayer and a sermon to begin the four-day Islamic feast, the hundreds who turned out were a strong showing of the local Muslim population that are striving to raise the necessary funds to construct a mosque on Union Road near Wawona Avenue.

According to Imam Mohammed Elfarra, the turnout was a great sign of a growing Muslim population that the Islamic Center of Manteca – the group that organizes community gatherings for religious traditions – hopes will bridge the gap between the community and the sometimes-misunderstood world of Islam.

“It’s really great to see so many people because it gives us a sense that we can educate the community about the truth regarding our faith,” Elfarra said. “We know that we have a presence, and we want people to know that we live among them in peace and harmony.

“For many years we’ve had to travel to Stockton or Modesto or even the Bay Area for prayers and events like this, and now we can gather close to our homes.”

The four-day festival falls roughly 70 days after the conclusion of Ramadan – the Islamic month of fasting – and begins the day after those who have traveled to Mecca on a spiritual pilgrimage begin descending from Mount Arafat.

Those on their Hajj – the pilgrimage that is the also the fifth pillar of Islam and is required of all Muslims who are financially able to make the journey – will visit the site of the Kaaba (or cube) that the Quran teaches was constructed by Ibrahim with his son Ismail.

It is known as the most sacred site in all of Islam.

With such a large turnout, the event on Friday gave Elfarra hope that the drive to raise the necessary funds to begin work on the mosque will continue to stay on pace. Religious obligations require that no interest-based loans be used to finance the construction – something that has hampered the collection of donations needed to begin the work.

“There are three million people that make that pilgrimage every year,” Alfaro said. “It’s a big event in the Muslim faith, and being able to hold the prayers that coincide with that holy event right here is a great thing.”

Those wishing to make donations can visit www.icomanteca.org. The site also includes information about upcoming community events and includes contact information for the Islamic Center of Manteca.
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