It was a morning of celebration tinged with sorrow. Hundreds of devout Muslims gathered at the Islamic Center of Boise to celebrate, together, one of their faith’s most important holidays, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice.
Less than two months earlier, members of the mosque had joined forces for a far more difficult purpose: to help care for the victims of a knife-wielding attacker, who had slashed his way through a refugee child’s birthday party. The little girl died two days later. Eight other residents of the Wylie Street Station Apartments just off State Street were seriously wounded.
And on Tuesday, members of at least one of the families victimized during the June 30 attack came to the Islamic Center at 3077 Christine Street on Boise’s West Bench to pray, embrace friends and be surrounded by the sounds of devotion and the laughter of children in fancy new outfits.
“There are lots of things that are happening that affect Muslims, and non-Muslims, particularly in the last couple months, the incident that happened with the stabbing,” said Ahmed Abdelnaby, as the service ended and women in modest hijab and men in flowing robes called thobes, headed back to their cars.
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Abdelnaby is a member of the mosque’s executive committee, and on Tuesday he noted one hopeful consequence of that awful night.
“People got to know more about refugees, more about Islam and the religion that some of those refugees practice,” he said. “And as people now are eager to know, it’s an opportunity for us to share with them more about our religion and our celebration.”
Tuesday’s celebration began with announcements in Arabic, Swahili and English. A reminder that the Eid al-Adha picnic is on Saturday. A request that people attending the morning’s service stay “for the whole thing.” An acknowledgment of what brought the congregation together this day in the first place.
“On this day of sacrifice, what are we going to sacrifice for?” Taga Bah, president of the mosque’s executive community, asked the families gathered before him. “I hope that we are going to sacrifice for togetherness and being one in this community. We are all gathered here today in the name of Islam, in the very diverse community of Islam.”
Tuesday was the first day of Eid al-Adha, a four-day celebration, Abdelnaby said. Muslims believe that God had ordered Ibrahim —Abraham to Christians and Jews — to sacrifice his son as a test of his faith. At the last moment, God spared the boy and put a ram in his place.
“We follow the same tradition,” said Abdelnaby, an engineer at Micron Technology Inc. “We celebrate and we sacrifice a lamb or a sheep. … We split it in thirds. Part goes to needy people. Part to friends, neighbors and family, and part to the household. If you want to give more to the needy, that’s fine. The slaughter is after prayer.”
As the wider Boise community’s attention focuses on the refugee families who suffered in the knife attack, he said, Muslims have “the responsibility to show people the true face of the religion. People need to understand that we love everybody, and we want everybody to love us.”
Dalia Elgamel, who is married to Abdelnaby, is part of a steering committee formed to aid the stabbing victims and their families. The couple recently met with one man whose wife, Miada Jasim, and two children, Zine, 8, and Teba, 6, were among those stabbed.
The children have been released from the hospital and are home. Jasim, who was stabbed in the neck and paralyzed on her left side, is still hospitalized.
“We chatted with him and he said that she is doing better, and she is starting to move,” Abdelnaby said. “It is hard and, I think, I cannot say that I feel what they feel. That is an understatement. I did not go through what they did. They came here to the U.S. as refugees.”
Abdelnaby paused. Smiled. And embraced a man who came up to say hello. “Speaking about the devil,” Abdelnaby said.
The man, who requested that his name not be used, was among the stabbing victims.
Abdelnaby translated for a reporter. “He said it could have happened to anybody,” Abdelnaby said. “He appreciates the people that live here. … He knows that it is not a Boise thing. He said, ‘We have been here for two years and have seen all kind people here.’
“‘We know that the people here are very kind, and we do not wish harm to anybody’.”