Celebrating the joy of Islam in Debney Park - Melbourne


Celebrating the joy of Islam in Debney Park - Melbourne
<p>Young Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr - marking the end of <p> the holy month of Ramadan - at Flemington's Debney Park. <p> The event drew more than 5000 Muslims from a range of ethnic groups. <p>

LITTLE girls in colourful headscarves and others with braided hair scream with joy as they spin around on the Hurricane carousel ride.

Boys in tracksuit pants chase balls while their mothers — Palestinian, Lebanese, Turkish, Somali, and everything in between — happily chat on picnic blankets.

Men in traditional long dress and others in jeans sell tickets for the rides and keep the kids entertained.

Welcome to a very Australian celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yesterday more than 5000 Australian Muslims from about 20 ethnic communities came together at Debney Park in Flemington to begin a three-day celebration that marks one of the holiest times on the Islamic calendar.

The day began with thousands praying together in the park and, later, shaking hands and hugging each other.

Surrounded by black, white and Asian faces, community organiser Ahmed Ahmed said: "You forget about the whole ethnicity — you are Muslim and that's it. Regardless of what you are, you will shake every single man's hand."

Event manager Ahmed Moussa, of the Islamic Information Support Centre of Australia, said it was especially important for children to publicly celebrate the holiday and get a sense of belonging to a community.

Youth and community groups also used the event to connect with troubled migrant youth, he said.

Osama Almahroqui, former imam at the Islamic Council of Victoria, said scores of people from around Melbourne, as well as interstate visitors and international students, had attended the celebration.

"We may come from different schools of thought — some cover their faces, some don't — but at the end of the day we all have a single religion, we are brothers and sisters," Mr Almahroqui said. "We come here caring about no financial issues, no wars. We celebrate the reward and good tidings of the month of Ramadan."

The annual event, which Muslim community groups have organised with the help of Moonee Valley Council, is now in its third year.

If Ramadan is about sacrifice — fasting, humility and asking for forgiveness — Eid al-Fitr is all about celebration.

Shaenice Moussa, a Coburg mother of two, has been coming to Debney Park since the festival began.

"I like the morning prayer because you don't get to see something of that scale but once or twice a year. Seeing all the kids' faces, they are so excited about being here and going on the rides — it's Christmas to them.

"You feel like you are coming to something as special as Christmas."

Ms Moussa, a Palestinian, said she would spend the rest of the day visiting relatives and friends. "It's a day for forgiveness … It's a happy time."

Fathia Ahmed Ali came from Perth especially for the Debney Park celebrations. The Somali-born woman could not believe the size of the event. "In Perth, there is not much of a Somali community. We made a lot of friends and played a lot of games."

Sucking on a lollipop, her niece Munira Ali, 6, gave her verdict: the festival had been "a lot of fun". So what's the best thing about Eid? "The pressies!" a beaming Munira shouted before running off to the next ride.

Source: The age - Australia

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