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French Muslims Mark `Eid Al-Fitr With Shopping, Prayer


By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent


Members of the sizable Muslim community in this strictly secular European country celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr, marking the end of the dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan, with a shopping spree and a special prayer at mosque.

In the last days of the holy month, shopping malls are usually buzzing with Muslims buying new outfits for `Eid Al-Fitr, one of the two main Muslim religious feasts, which will fall on Sunday, November 14.

According to the Germany-based Muslim Council for Crescents, `Eid Al-Fitr will start in all European countries on Sunday.

Aware of the Muslims’ customs in celebrating their `Eid, the major French shopping malls announce a ten-day sales while other ready-made clothes manufactures offer up to 50% discounts during the last ten days of Ramadan.

In addition, the major malls and cafes double their working hours during the three-day `Eid holiday to accommodate celebrating Muslims.

"During the `Eid, malls are teeming with young Muslims in their new clothes. They exchange congratulations with smiling faces, drawing attention of fellow French citizens," Rashid Toub, a Muslim activist, told Friday, November 12.

He said that while French Muslims usually chat in French they only exchange `Eid greetings in Arabic.

Toub noted the phrasing of the `Eid  greetings differ according to the French Muslims’ country of origin.

Haidar Demirerk, Secretary General of the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM), agrees.

"French Turks are no exception. We celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr by buying new clothes for children and exchanging `Eid congratulations, but in Turkish."

Estimates indicate there are some 6 million Muslims living in France, mostly from north African countries and Turkey.

`Eid Joy

Readying to welcome worshipers to perform the special `Eid prayer, hanging lights and beaming ribbons are usually fixed at mosques’ minarets.

Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Hamami, imam of the Omar bin Al Khattab Mosque in Paris, urged the Muslim community to demonstrate their `Eid joy.

"Just like French Christians encourage their children to celebrate Christmas and other religious feasts, Muslims do the same with their kids."

Hamami, a leading influential Muslim figure in Paris, further called on Muslim employees, workers and vendors to take days off during `Eid Al-Fitr holiday to celebrate the feast with their families.

During the three-day `Eid holiday, Muslim school students usually make no-show.

The 20-member Stasi commission recommended on Thursday, December 11, 2003, that France add Jewish and Muslim holidays to the calendar for state schools.

It suggested that Yom Kippur - the Jewish Day of Atonement – and `Eid Al-Adha be celebrated in the schools.

It also recommended that companies allow employees to choose a religious holiday, for instance Yom Kippur, `Eid Al-Adha, or the Orthodox Christmas to add to their number of days off.

The country currently marks 11 public holidays, most of the based on Roman Catholic celebrations reflecting the denomination of the majority of its 60 million inhabitants.

However, the parliament spurned all these recommendations and only voted in favor of issuing new law to ban "conspicuous" religious signs, including Hijab, in state schools.