Local News

Controversy marks end of Muslim holy month

Posted September 10, 2010 1:35 p.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2010 5:17 p.m. EDT

Hundreds of Muslims pray at the State Fairgrounds on Sept. 10, 2010, to mark Eid, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

— Thousands of Muslims marked the end of Ramadan Friday morning with prayers at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, but their day of reflection and celebration was clouded by controversy.

The Rev. Terry Jones, the pastor of a small, independent church in Gainesville, Fla., planned to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania by burning copies of the Quran, the holy book of Islam.

Jones said Thursday that he would back off the plan if he could meet with Muslim officials who plan to build a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in Manhattan. It was unclear Friday whether the Quran burning would take place Saturday.

"He's just a lunatic – trying to grab some attention and get his five minutes of fame," Isam Mari said Friday before praying at the State Fairgrounds. "If he's truly a Christian, I don't think that's what Jesus is teaching.

"Islam teaches us to live in peace with our neighbors, regardless of color, gender or what they believe in, whether it's Christian, Jew or any other," Mari said.

Mary Javed, a native of Afghanistan, said she questions Jones' motives.

"I cannot believe he's a pastor or he's a religious person because anybody who's religious and believes in God wants to prevent problems with other religions," Javed said. "I think somebody else's hand is (behind this) to bring something between Muslims and Christianity."

Soviet troops burned the Quran when they invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970s, she said, but that doesn't shake anyone's faith.

"It doesn't mean that they burn our brain or our mind," she said.

Imran Aukhil of the Islamic Association of Raleigh said that the controversy has a positive side in that it forces people to think and gets them talking about Muslim-Christian relations.

"I think these kinds of things, although they may seem negative at first, have a lot of positive influence on the community. They'll bring people together more than they'll tear them apart," Aukhil said.

Javed said she hopes that happens and that relations between the two religions don't worsen.

"The things that (could) happen after this between Muslims and Christianity is scary," she said.

People at the Eid prayer also brought food and other donations to the State Fairgrounds to help the victims of flooding in Pakistan, where more than 1,700 people have died and millions are homeless.