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Local Muslims encouraged to break new ground

December 08, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

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HAGERSTOWN - On a day of celebration and sacrifice, Esam Omeish had a broader message of equality and achievement for local Muslims.

In a sermon during Monday's holiday prayer service, Omeish encouraged Muslims to establish themselves and break new ground where they live in much the same way Abraham is said to have founded monotheism in Arabia.

Omeish, a member of the Islamic Society of Western Maryland, which held Monday's Eid al-Adha event, said he likes to give a "state of the community" address to make people think.

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Another main point in his sermon was the universal message of pilgrimage, or hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

He said the rich and poor, the powerful and powerless, travel to Mecca on equal footing at least once in their lives, following the teachings of their religion.

Eid al-Adha is one of two major festivals for Muslims, said Dr. Pear M. Enam, another member of the Islamic Society.

The holiday commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son at Allah's command, a story outlined in the Koran. When Abraham proved his commitment, Allah let him substitute an animal for his son.

Many Muslims sacrifice a lamb, goat, sheep or cow as part of the holiday, Enam said. They keep some of the meat, share some with friends and donate the rest to the poor.

The Islamic Society held a morning service at the Grand Venice Hotel in Hagerstown for Eid al-Adha, a three-day festival. More than 200 people attended.

Enam said there are about 75 Muslim families in and around Hagerstown. Muslims from Waynesboro and Chambersburg in Pennsylvania and Martinsburg, W.Va., also attended the service, he said.

Soha Qadir, 16, of Hagerstown, said she planned to spend the day with friends and family at an open-house party.

She said she appreciates the significance of the holiday.

"I kind of use it to get myself centered," she said. The festival's rituals help her refocus Islam's role in her life, she said.

For 17-year-old Sefer Pllana of Williamsport, Omeish's message about a Muslim's place in the community resonated.

Pllana, whose family left Kosovo as refugees about nine years ago, said many people have misperceptions about Islam and its principles.

To present a positive image, "you establish yourself as a good Muslim - a good clean person," he said. "Keep yourself in line."

Salih V. Yumlu of Hagerstown agreed with Omeish's emphasis. "We should do our best to be part (of the community) and be helpful," he said.

"Despite our successes, we're very unknown," Omeish said after the service. "There's a lot of ignorance. We haven't done enough to let our neighbors know who we are."

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