'We're all connected': How P.E.I.'s Muslim community has become more diverse each year

·3 min read
Khalid Suliman, right, and his family at the barbecue hosted by the P.E.I. Muslim Society in celebration of Eid al-Fitr May 7. (Thinh Nguyen/CBC - image credit)
Khalid Suliman, right, and his family at the barbecue hosted by the P.E.I. Muslim Society in celebration of Eid al-Fitr May 7. (Thinh Nguyen/CBC - image credit)

Charlottetown Rural student Ramadan Alghthith and his family arrived in P.E.I. seven years ago from Syria.

He remembers those first days, not being able to understand people speaking English, and didn't see many in the community looking like him or speaking the same language as him.

Much has changed in seven years.

He was one of more than 500 people of various nationalities getting together last Saturday in Charlottetown in celebration of Eid al-Fitr — a holiday that marks the end of 30 days of fasting during Ramadan.

"There's a lot of people from all around the world. There's Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria. It's very interesting to celebrate with all of them, knowing that we're all siblings, brothers and sisters," Alghthith said.

"We're all connected. In a way, we're celebrating the same cause, even though we don't come from the same place, but we have the same belief."

Thinh Nguyen/CBC
Thinh Nguyen/CBC

The Muslim Society of Prince Edward Island held Eid prayers on May 2 and hosted a barbecue, with games and bouncy castles for children on May 7 at the Masjid Dar As-Salam mosque.

Eid celebration back home and on P.E.I.

But not all Muslims celebrate Eid with a barbecue, said Zumer Fatima. Originally from Pakistan, she grew up in United Arab Emirates and came to the Island seven years ago.

At that time, she found there were only about a dozen Muslim families on P.E.I.

Fatima said Muslims share the same core values and beliefs, but there are still differences within the community — like how people from different countries celebrate Eid.

"In Pakistan, we call this Sweet Eid or Meethi Eid, that's the term we use. So what usually happens is people will make a lot of desserts, and it will be like an Eid where you would go around having desserts. But over here, it's different."

Thinh Nguyen/CBC
Thinh Nguyen/CBC

Back home, she celebrated Eid by getting together with her friends. "Sort of like a girls' party," Fatima said, where they got together and painted henna on their hands.

Henna tattoos are a custom typically done around Eid and other special celebrations. It's been around for thousands of years and is closely associated with Middle Eastern culture. At the celebration last Saturday, Fatima noticed not all women have henna tattoos.

"[Henna] is not something that you have to do or Eid becomes incomplete without it. It's purely choice-based."

Khalid Suliman also noticed many differences between the Eid celebration on P.E.I. and back in his home country. Originally from Dubai, his family have been on the Island for two years.

Thinh Nguyen/CBC
Thinh Nguyen/CBC

Typically, he and his family would celebrate the holiday with various different kinds of sweets and drinks made from dates. Much different when compared to the barbecue and apple juice last Saturday.

But what strikes him the most is there are more new faces in every year's celebration, Suliman said.

"In my home country, everyone is a local, so celebrations would be you'd go visit people you know, your relatives, your distant relatives. So you already know everyone you're celebrating with," he said.

"Here, every year you have new Muslims coming in. Every year, you meet new people with different background stories."

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