The large crowd gathered Sunday for Eid al-Fitr – a Muslim holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan – was a visual, spiritual and cultural delight of vibrant colors and festive spirits.
Many of the women were dressed in a dazzling array of brightly colored pants, tunics, dresses and hijabs (Muslim head scarves) decorated with beads, sequins, embroidery and accompanied by plenty of bangle bracelets and mehndi, temporary designs drawn with henna, usually on the hands. Some men wore the traditional tunics and loose-fitting pants while others chose more traditional American clothing.
Held at The Plex, at IPFW, hundreds of Muslims joined together for morning prayers and then began the first of three days of joyous festivities after the month of Ramadan, in which they must fast from sunrise to sunset.
American Muslims joined together in camaraderie with local residents who had moved here from other countries, including Bosnia, Burma, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Chad, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Andaz Ahmad, one of the organizers of the event, is from Pakistan originally and lived in London for 11 years before coming to the United States in 2001.
I love it. It’s great, Ahmad said of living in Fort Wayne.
Ahmad, an administrator at Ivy Tech, said he sometimes felt like a second-class citizen in Europe, but he has not experienced that in Indiana.
I am just as American as everyone else, Andaz Ahmad, Ivy Tech administrator said. I love what this country stands for – freedom, values and the justice system.
He wished more people would work together on interfaith activities and was pleased that Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry participated in the Muslim celebration.
I believe this is the only town in Indiana where the mayor got involved, Ahmad said.
Ramadan is a cleansing of the body, mind and soul and a time to think about giving back, said Ahmad.
As is customary, the local Muslim community held a number of charity events, including a food drive during the last few days of Ramadan, to help those less fortunate, Ahmad said.
Among the diverse crowd of people celebrating was a beautiful dark-haired woman dressed in a bright pink, embellished Pakistani dress and scarf. Golnaz Mathews is an Iranian Christian who married an American.
She came to the event at the invitation of Fort Wayne attorney Fazia Deen.
Mathews’ two sons attend Blackhawk Christian School, but she enjoys experiencing other cultures and religions. Everyone was so friendly and the atmosphere was so festive, Mathews said.
This atmosphere is very similar to the Christmas holidays, she said.
Meanwhile, Ahmad’s three young daughters, Savannah, 9, Sophia, 11, and Sara, 12, clad in a kaleidoscope of luscious hues and textures and sporting mehndi-enhanced hands, were chomping at the bit.
They tugged at their father to hurry and get them to get to the next item on the agenda – a brunch at a restaurant followed by an open house and large party that would last most of the day.
Savannah summed it up with a shy smile.
It’s really a lot of fun, she said.