LONDON: An annual celebration of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr returned to the British capital this weekend after a two-year break due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Eid in the Square, hosted by the Mayor of London, is held annually in Trafalgar Square to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and attracts thousands of Muslim and non-Muslim attendees. This year’s event was the 17th.
“A lot of people twist the religion of Islam and many Muslims are often demonized,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Arab News. “The great thing about the month of Ramadan is that Muslims, like me, show non-Muslims what our religion is – charity, compassion, decency – and Eid is about bringing people together and celebrate this important holiday.”
As the threat of the pandemic recedes, Khan said authorities in London want to see more events reflecting all religions. Easter and Vaisakhi celebrations have already taken place in the square this year, and it will host Diwali and Hanukkah events in the coming months.
“It’s really important for us to realize here in London, for me diversity is not a weakness but a strength,” Khan said. “But also that we don’t just tolerate Muslims, we respect them, we embrace them, we celebrate them.
“I strongly believe in integration, but I also understand and respect the religious backgrounds of different people, and I think it is possible to be a proud Brit, a proud Londoner, someone who is proud to be of Pakistani or Asian descent, and a Muslim.”
The first day of Eid Al-Fitr fell on Monday, May 2 this year, but Eid in the Square was held on Saturday, May 7 so that more families and other visitors could attend. The event included live Islamic-inspired music, comedy, art, poetry and other cultural performances, as well as a feast of food stalls featuring cuisines from around the world.
Many people wore Eid carnival costumes and other entertainment included family activities such as calligraphy, storytelling, mehndi (henna body art), face painting, science and drama workshops and a variety sports activities.
Ayham Jaaron, a 42-year-old university professor from Palestine, was celebrating Eid in the UK for the first time and traveled to London for the event from Loughborough in Leicestershire with his wife and two children . He said he was proud to be part of Britain’s Muslim community, a society that promotes values, tolerance and equality.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the Muslim community to come together and celebrate with other people and also enjoy the family atmosphere,” he added.
His wife, Yasmin Abu Alhla Jaaron, a 32-year-old researcher working on a doctorate, said she was impressed to see Muslims from diverse cultures and backgrounds celebrating together, and touched that non-Muslims also joined. to them to share the special day. She added that because she is studying abroad, she cannot join her own family to celebrate Eid, but an event like this brings everyone together “so it’s like a big family. I am very grateful for that.
Zia Rahman, 50, a Pakistani Muslim who recently moved from Germany to London, brought her nine-year-old son to Eid in the Square. He said he did not expect such turnout and a wide range of family activities.
“In Germany, I didn’t experience that; we are a small Muslim community there,” he added. “But here there are a lot of people from different cultures and also with different beliefs, so it’s nice to see them all celebrating together.”
His son, Ameen, said he enjoyed the event and said it was the first time he had had such an experience, although he found it strange to see so many Muslims living in a non-Muslim town.
Mariem Bouchaala, 32, a financial consultant from Tunisia, also said she had never attended an event like this before and did not expect so many people. She was joined by friends from several countries including Spain, Colombia and India and said the atmosphere “reflects the cultural part of London”.
Ahead of the celebrations, and in partnership with Eid in the Square, for the first time ever, the London Eye observation wheel on the bank of the River Thames has been lit up with a crescent moon to celebrate the Eid holiday Al-Fitr.