PORTLAND, Maine — On Wednesday morning, some 2,000 people gathered at Fitzpatrick Stadium, where they bowed east in prayer, toward Mecca and the rising sun.
With men gathered at one of the football field’s end zones and women clustered between the 30- and 50-yard lines, the city’s diverse Muslim communities came together in a public celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Calls to prayer at around 7 a.m. drew hundreds of Muslims from around Portland. They came by car and on foot, in families and alone, dressed in T-shirts and suits, as well as the traditional garb of the city’s Somali, Iraqi and Afghani communities.
Prayer was led by Imam Younus Alfayyadh.
Alfayyadh, also a teacher at Deering High School, encouraged the gathered crowd to carry the sanctity of Ramadan with them throughout the year and to turn their thoughts to the Islamic communities around the world that have seen the holy month disrupted by acts of terror.
“We are living in the freest country, the most comfortable country. We cannot forget our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world,” Alfayyadh said to those gathered in prayer, referencing attacks by the Islamic State that indiscriminately killed hundreds in Turkey, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Iraq this Ramadan.
Speaking with BDN Portland, Alfayyadh reinforced that Islamic State has nothing to do with the religion practiced peacefully around the world.
“These are the real Muslims,” he told BDN Portland, gesturing out to the football field. “They came to pray peacefully.”