There is a different calendar Muslims around the globe are looking at this week. The Islamic lunar calendar, called the Hijri.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

We are in the month of Dhul-Hijja, which is the time of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The 10th of Dhul-Hijja, which is July 20, is the beginning of the celebration of Eid-al-Adha. Maine Muslims are eagerly waiting for the three-day celebration of this Eid to start. The last one we had together as a community was in 2019.

Eid-al-Adha is known as the festival of the sacrifice, a holiday that honors Ismael, son of the prophet Ibrahim, also known in Christianity and Judaism as Abraham. When I was growing up I always liked the Eid, when we could afford to feast together as a community. Even the wars stopped during the days of the celebration. The killings of people were changed by the killings of animals so people could eat. The excitement usually started days before Eid arrived.

Mecca, Saudi Arabia, has limited its Hajj visitors this year to only 60,000, mostly from Saudi Arabia or residents of Saudi Arabia. In 2019, only 2.5 millions pilgrims attended the Hajj, some of whom were Mainers. In total, 20,000 of those pilgrims were Muslims from the United States.

The pandemic has made it difficult for those in the U.S. to perform the Hajj this year and last year. Thankfully many Maine Muslims, including myself, are vaccinated this year and we will gather together in large groups outdoors as well as indoors. Once again we can share food, hug one another and never forget to thank science and our state’s efforts to vaccinate Maine.

Maine’s vaccinated Muslims, you earned this celebration by getting vaccinated and encouraging your family to do the same. I remember the last Eid-al-Fitr two months ago, when communities could not come out to celebrate; some of us  promised to do everything we can to be able to celebrate the next one. The question now is, how can we even make it much better for the ones to come? The answer lies in our actions for the next several months. One thing we learned from the pandemic is that it keeps coming back in variants. Who knows what can happen next?

As we gather in the morning of the 20th of July to begin the Eid celebration at Colisee Center in Lewiston, I hope we can turn this into an opportunity to speak to the rest who may not want to be vaccinated. The Eid speeches are some of the most anticipated, listened to and reflected upon. I hope Maine Muslim leaders will use this day to promote vaccines, congratulate the vaccinated and rally the community towards a more active participation in the state’s vaccination efforts. I can’t think of any other opportunity where one can speak directly to those who may be suspicious of the vaccines, or the anti-vaxxers in the immigrant community.

Our country is seeing an average of 26,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, according to Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky, and our state stands at 59% vaccinated as the number of cases have risen in recent weeks. Everyone should keep this in mind as we head out to the celebration of Eid-al-Adha this week.

For those who want to wish a happy Eid to the Muslim community in Maine, you can say “Eid Mubarak.” When I was a young boy my mother had always told us to go down the street and wish everyone Eid Mubarak.

I am looking forward to a day when Mainers will know what these words mean so that I can go back to the street and wish everyone Eid Mubarak, regardless of their faith, nationality or ethnicity.

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