London’s Muslim community draws large crowds for its 1st Eid after COVID restrictions lift

Thousands of people from London’s Muslim community gathered for Eid celebrations on Monday. The mass prayers are the first in-person event for the community after two years of pandemic-related restrictions.

“It is a great tradition for us to come together and we were locked down for two years before that so missing it was very difficult for the community. But this year we are very happy and grateful,” said Imam Aarij Anwer of the London Muslim Mosque.

The mass prayer was supposed to be an outdoor event held at TD Waterhouse Stadium, but had to be moved to the mosque at the last minute due to poor weather conditions. Over 4,000 people attended, dispersed in multiple prayer sessions throughout the day.

Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month in Islam in which Muslims around the world fast daily from sunrise to sunset.

The day of celebration begins with a morning prayer service, after which people spend the rest of the day with friends and family and exchange gifts with each other.

“It’s a day to celebrate, eat, drink and have a good time, and to share our blessing with those less fortunate,” Anwer said. “We make sure before we pray that we give to charity, giving to those who are less fortunate.”

Hundreds of people were in the prayer hall of the Muslim mosque in London with Imam Aarij Anwer leading the prayer (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Anwer said the community is thrilled to finally be able to reunite in person with their loved ones, which is a blessing they don’t take for granted.

“Being together is essential. The idea of ​​Ramadan and Eid brings people together. It is as essential as refraining from eating and drinking,” he added.

The true spirit of Eid returns

Moataz Abdrabou (right) is delighted to celebrate Eid with other members of his community. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Moataz Abdrabou was delighted to see so many members of his community after so long.

“This is the first month in two years that we can actually go out and have group Iftaars. [the meal which breaks a fast]so it’s really nice to see all these people practicing their faith,” he said.

“It’s been a very spiritual month, and it’s like the fourth or fifth prayer and it’s packed so they had to do a sixth prayer.”

Laura El Khodeir said she had a truly productive and thoughtful Ramadan and was happy that the whole community could unite on this festive occasion.

“The last few years have been quite difficult because we couldn’t pray at the mosque and you couldn’t see the people,” she said. “There are so many people here today and it’s nice to see this community stronger than ever.”

Dana Hamad (left) and Laura El Khodeir (right) are delighted to return to normal Eid celebrations (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Dana Hamad felt that Ramadan has slipped away this year, but she is happy that she was able to return to the annual traditions she has with her family.

“Each night you’re usually at someone’s house, so you can get out more, finally see your family and friends, and really feel the spirit of Ramadan this year,” she said.

“This [COVID] really took the spirit away, but this year had a big impact and covered the last two years.”

Anwer said the community is grateful to be able to express their faith and identity.

“We are proud Muslim Canadians and for us it is very important to be at peace and proud of who we are. We are so lucky to be able to be together.”

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