About 700 Muslims gathered Friday morning to celebrate the end of their annual fast and the beginning of a new religious center in Glendale.
People wearing everything from three-piece suits to traditional robes and shawls came to the Pacific Community Center gym to offer the Eid Prayer in celebration of the end of Ramadan, a month-long fast.
Men and teenage boys sat on one carpet, women and young children on another, as the group repeated the rhythmic lines of the prayer. All were pointed toward the eastern corner of the gym, facing Mecca, birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. Everyone had removed their shoes for the ceremony — dress shoes, Ugg boots, sneakers and Crocs lining the walls of the gym.
Islamic Center of Glendale President Abo-Elkhier E. Serag announced that last month the center bought a site for worship at 700 S. Adams St.
Friday prayer services have already commenced at the center, which was the Church of Perfect Liberty, part of a Japanese branch of Zen Buddhism.
Other sites for the Islamic center were considered, but none were as well-suited, Segar said.
"It looked like it was made for us," he said. "It came at the right time and the right place."
In his sermon, Imam Suhail Mulla said the center can serve as a place of cultural activity and as a celebration of youth. But he said Glendale Muslims must reach out to spread tolerance at a time when "Islamaphobia is at its highest point."
"We have to get out of our comfort zone, brothers and sisters. We have to get out of our cliques," Mulla said.
The center, he said, "Is a place where others can see Muslims are a peace-loving people; where others can see our concerns are the same as other god-loving people."
Mulla noted that only a day earlier Florida Pastor Terry Jones had postponed against his plan to burn copies of the Koran, the Muslim holy book. As Mulla mentioned the reverend's decision, a few of the assembled called out, "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great."
Worshippers later hugged in greeting and headed outside for a breakfast of freshly-made flatbread, chicken, beans, fruit and pastries, while children played with Silly String or joined their families at picnic tables.
"It is a great feeling when you fast for awhile and then break that fast," Magda Abdelbaky, of Valencia, said.
Shan Shamin of Eagle Rock said he had high hopes for the new center.
"Our community hopes to participate and be part of the larger community in a good way," he said.