On Monday, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid Al-Adha, a religious holiday to commemorate Ibrahim’s (Abraham) sacrifice and the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Eid commemorates the day Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac to God.
In observing this day, hundreds of Muslims across the state will gather in mosques, social halls and malls to celebrate as a community. The Mall of America (MOA) has in the past experienced an influx of visitors to the mall during this Muslim holiday. Major Douglas Reynolds, MOA Security Director says that in “past years we [have] messed up in terms of staffing … it is difficult to plan when you don’t know the precise date of the holiday …Eid sneaks up on us but we have gotten a little better.”
Unlike other religious holidays that occur on the same day every year, Eid and other Islamic holidays are based on the lunar calendar; cycles of the moon phase. As a result Eid falls on a different day every year.
Muslim leaders are concerned that since MOA does not have designated prayer rooms, Muslims seen praying in corners at the mall might be considered suspicious by other shoppers. Their concerns are hardly misplaced as several months ago three Muslim imams were held for questioning at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport when they were seen by airport staff praying at a terminal. The community recommends that the mall considers creating a meditation room that is open for all customers’ use and marked as such.
Security at the mall is also an issue. “Gang violence is a concern … last year we got word that three Somali gang groups will be coming and they wanted to hurt each other… we have got ready for them but fortunately they didn’t show up … usually, we hire and work side-by-side with off duty officers for special programs or events and I think will do just that this time,”said Reynolds . The last six months has seen six young Somali men lose their lives to gang violence, however, none of these crimes were committed at the MOA.
Reynolds said that gang violence resulted in the closing of the mall, in 2006 and 2007, when “a fight got out of control.” Mall security has since involved the community, and has seen “fewer incidents and no fights at all, ” according to MOA security.
The Mall also reports that as the Minnesotan Muslim community keeps growing, they are striving to understand and accommodate this community. The mall has recruited volunteers and hired people from the Somali community to work on Eid to afford the community a culturally sensitive environment.
MOA has agreed to offer a prayer room for Eid. Reynolds has assured the Muslim community that he will work towards establishing a permanent meditation room in the mall.
“We hope to provide the best customer service possible to the community,”Reynolds said.