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Corona park plays host to massive Eid celebration

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More than 250 Muslims prayed on and near the AstroTurf field at Northern Playground in Corona for Eid last week, a special day in the Islamic calendar that celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The ceremony, traditionally but not always held in an open field known as an Eidgah, was led by Imam Mohd Qayyoom of the Muhammadi Community Center of Jackson Heights, who opened up the prayer to officials and members of other faiths as an expression of peace across religions.

“We have to show the next generation our tradition that this is the real meaning of Islam,” Qayyoom said.

Eid is held on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal, which comes after Ramadan. Unlike the Gregorian calender, which is primarily a solar calendar, the Islamic calender counts the months in tandem with the cycles of the moon. During Ramadan, which was Aug. 1 to Aug. 29 this year, Muslims do not eat during the day, read the entire Qur’an and give to charity.

The Eid prayer was held early in the morning Aug. 30 at Northern Playground on 93rd Street and Northern Boulevard in Corona, with the male worshipers and guests praying on the AstroTurf field and women praying in an adjacent curtained spot in the park. Qayyoom led worshipers through the Raka’ah, a Muslim cycle of prayers in which Muslims bow low and prostrate themselves on the ground before Allah. Food was available to worshipers and guests.

“Eidgah means a lot of people get together for the prayer,” Qayyoom said.

City Comptroller John Liu, Borough President Helen Marshall, City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblymen Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona), Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) and Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) attended the ceremony as did representatives from other faiths. The elected officials and other leaders were presented with a sash of honor and the women also received a traditional Muslim head covering.

“It’s days like today that we connect with our higher being, our peace,” Ferreras said.

Many talked about how the public Eid service was an indicator of Queens becoming more diverse.

“You are an important part of that change and that growth and that development,” Aubry said in his remarks.

Liu said he wished those at the prayer “peace and joy” and said he was honored to participate in many iftars — the nightly meal that ends the daily fast — throughout the month of Ramadan.

The comptroller said the Muslim population was “a community that continues to grow larger in size, larger in influence, and rightfully so.”

Giovanna Reid, district manager of Community Board 3, thanked Qayyoom and activist Mohammad Rashid, who acted as emcee for the event, for the work they did in the community.

“I want to congratulate him for all the wonderful things he does,” Reid said of Qayyoom.

Qayyoom had originally predicted 20,000 would attend the ceremony, but considered the ceremony a success nevertheless.

“Hopefully, it will get bigger and better,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 7:09 pm, September 14, 2011
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