x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A beacon of Eid

The Empire State Building's marking of Eid Al Fitr is a welcome gesture of tolerance.

When plans for a community centre in downtown Manhattan were announced in late 2009, some conservative American groups were outraged. The controversy over Park51 was a clear misunderstanding, with an unhealthy dose of prejudice mixed in. Opponents have dubbed it the "Ground Zero mosque" - despite the fact that it is not a mosque, is not at Ground Zero and has supporters of many faiths.

The controversy highlighted the tensions, and Islamophobia, that persists a decade after the September 11 attacks.

This year, however, brings a welcome bit of symbolism from New York. Starting on Saturday night, the Empire State Building has been illuminated with green lights to mark the occasion of Eid Al Fitr, in keeping with similar gestures that celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and even St Patrick's Day. It is the first time that this venerable symbol of the United States has been decorated to mark a Muslim celebration.

Of course, there is no panacea for the ignorance and wilful prejudice that many people still espouse. But on Eid Al Fitr, the gesture is a reminder of the spirit of generosity that the holiday embodies. To those in Abu Dhabi and in New York, and all points in between, Eid Mubarak.