A Jackson Heights imam has been continuing his quest to make the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday a national holiday, although a drive for petitions has so far only attracted five names.
“The country will come together with me and support it,” said Imam Mohd Qayyoom, of the Muhammadi Community Center of Jackson Heights, at 37-46 72nd St.
Qayyoom is a Sufi Muslim and a Bangladeshi immigrant who has dedicated himself to fighting terrorism and creating interfaith dialogue. In March, he began a campaign to make April 26, the historical birthday of Mohammad, a holiday and introduced his petition, which he plans to send to the White House, at the Interfaith Harmony and World Peace event, which was held at his mosque.
The imam has argued making the Muslim prophet’s birthday a holiday would spread the message of peace and foster goodwill between practitioners of different religions.
“This is a beginning and this is an initiative to promote peace,” Qayyoom said.
Five people have signed the petition, including City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights); Steve Knobel, president of the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights; and leaders of other faiths.
Knobel said many of the center’s Muslim neighbors are friendly and that Muslims should be able to have a holiday like Christians have Christmas.
“If it’s a free day and the banks are closed and I don’t have to cover checks and everyone is off and there’s no alternate-side parking, I’m for it,” Knobel said.
But the Rev. Iakovos Koutsakis, head of the Sts. Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church, at 37-57 72nd St., on the same block as the imam’s mosque, said through a Greek-to-English interpreter that he did not understand the petition he had signed and he had no opinion on whether or not Mohammad’s birthday should be a holiday.
When TimesLedger Newspapers originally reported on Qayyoom’s campaign, the story received more than 100 comments on the timesledger.com website, most of which were against the idea. Qayyoom’s petition also received a negative response from numerous right-wing blogs.
Qayyoom, who is in favor of the NYPD’s monitoring of Muslim groups and is against the Park51 mosque that was planned to be built in Manhattan near the World Trade Center site, said the type of Islam he practices is unlike the Islam practiced by radicals.
He also said he did not want the United States to impose Shariah law, which is a code of conduct for Muslims based on the Quran and has formed the basis of laws in some Muslim governments in the Middle East.
“We are practicing our prayer, we are doing all the things that we need to do,” Qayyoom said. “We don’t need Sharia law.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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