Let’s eat … Fatima Chahrouk’s family prepare to celebrate the end of fasting. Photo: Brendan Esposito
FOR the past 30 nights Fatima Chahrouk has prepared an evening iftar, or fast-breaking, meal for a rotating combination of her six children, her two grandchildren, her husband, her brother, her sister-in-law, her brother’s children and lastly, for herself.
Yesterday morning the 46-year-old mother, who works full-time in hospitality, had a change to her schedule. She prepared a morning meal instead, to mark Eid al-Fitr, the festival celebrating the end of the fasting period of Ramadan.
”We’re celebrating the end of our fasting during the month of Ramadan, that the Koran was revealed in,” she said.
”It’s basically like a graduation for us … a celebration that we are healthy and happy and able to fulfil the word of God.”
During Ramadan, Muslims must not eat, drink or smoke between sun-up and sundown. Exceptions are made for the sick and elderly, and women who are menstruating. The fast is intended to purify the soul, teach moderation and concentrate Muslims’ minds on the genuinely poor and starving.
During Eid, Muslims must visit all their family members, a process that often takes longer than the three-day duration of the official holiday. Children are given sweets and money, and there is a lot of eating.
The Charouks’ table groaned with watermelon, flat bread, olives, homemade yoghurt, Lebanese cheese, pastries and Turkish pizza. And that was before sweets.
Their raucous family celebration was one of thousands yesterday in Sydney’s south-west, where the city’s Muslim population is concentrated.
Eid prayers were held at Lakemba mosque at 7am, attended by an estimated 30,000 worshippers. The street was closed for the occasion and congregants spilled out onto the road.
After prayers, Sheikh Taj el-Din al Hilaly addressed the crowd in Arabic. He spoke about the planned burning of the Koran by a church pastor in Florida to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
”If he burns the Koran, we will not burn the Bible because our religion teaches us respect,” he said. Sheikh al Hilaly also paid tribute to Constable Will Crews, the police officer killed this week.
The Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the NSW Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, re-affirmed their commitment to blocking any attempts in Parliament to ban the niqab, or full-face veil.
But while the politicians were canvassing the Muslim vote, the Lebanese Muslim Association president, Samier Dandan, warned that neither party should take it for granted.
”We do not live in a narrow-minded enclave,” he said.
”We know what our community deserves in exchange for our political support.”