While Hanukkah candles flickered and Christmas lights gleamed across the San Fernando Valley, hundreds of Valley Muslims gathered Wednesday for Eid-al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
That’s the Valley for you. If anyone still harbors stereotypes of a single-culture suburb, this year’s convergence of Hanukkah, Christmas and Ramadan, as celebrated Valley-style, should put them to rest.
Years ago, things were different--or rather, more the same. Siddiq Khan, a native of India who moved to the Valley 20 years ago, told a Times reporter that there were so few Muslims then they had to go downtown for Eid al-Fitr. Today Islam, embraced by 1.2 billion people worldwide, is one of the fastest-growing religions in the nation. In the Valley, Muslims can choose among 10 local mosques.
Ramadan commemorates what Muslims believe was God’s revelation of their holy book, the Koran, to the prophet Muhammad nearly 1,400 years ago. It is a month of prayer, reflection, goodwill toward those less fortunate and fasting from dawn to dusk. Eid al-Fitr, like Christmas and Hanukkah, is celebrated with family and feasts, and children, sleepless from anticipation, receive gifts.
There is, of course, no stereotypical Valley Muslim any more than there are stereotypical Valley Jews or Christians (except maybe for a tendency to break the Ramadan fast with glazed doughnuts). Contrary to a common misconception, not all Muslims are of Arab ancestry. Islam is a faith, not an ethnicity. Almost half the estimated 6 million Muslims in the United States are African Americans, many of them recent converts. A quarter are from India and Pakistan.
The Muslims celebrating the close of Ramadan this holiday season are in short a mosaic within a mosaic, contributing to the vibrant tapestry that is the Valley.