Roseville Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha despite fear of hate crimes

Sehrish Khan smiled as she watched a group of children run barefoot around the Tarbiya Institute mosque in Roseville. Their hands had just been decorated with henna, and the drying dye was crumbling away, revealing intricate red designs.

Members of Roseville’s Muslim community gathered last week to prepare for the Eid al-adha celebration that took place Tuesday, just months after the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from multiple predominantly Muslim countries. Eid al-adha is a Muslim holiday often celebrated in large public gatherings where people participate in morning prayer.

“There’s always a fear there could be something that happens when we’re all in a large area together as Muslims,” said Khan, who is the Tarbiya Sisters Social Committee coordinator. “Before Trump, I didn’t have that fear.” She said even post-9/11 she never felt the same kind of worry going to Eid prayer as she does today.

Tarbiya Institute hosts annual Eid al-adha prayer and festivities at Jackson Sports Academy to accommodate nearly 5,000 participants from across California. Khan said the current political climate has many people in the community on edge about being practicing Muslims in public spaces. She said the fear is elevated for women who wear hijabs and men with long beards.

Just last year Tarbiya Institute was vandalized months after President Trump was sworn into office. Worshipers discovered graffiti after early morning prayers. The graffiti included threatening language against the Muslim community. One of the messages said “Muslim out.”

“I lived here for 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like that. But once Trump started ... it was surreal,” Khan said. “That’s our new reality and we just always have to be on guard.”

The number of hate crimes reported in California jumped more than 17 percent from 2016 to 2017. An advocacy group called the Council on American-Islamic Relations released a study this year that said hate crimes targeting U.S. Muslims rose 15 percent in 2017. This past April, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab was attacked by a man in a Detroit hospital.

But even amid the anxieties of public gathering, Muslim community members are not deterred from celebrating Eid.

On Tuesday morning, members of Tarbiya flooded Jackson Sports Academy. The hall was adorned with decorative cloth and the floors were covered in bright red prayer carpet. After leading prayer and offering a sermon, Dr. Mohamed Abdul-Azeez greeted worshipers and watched the children race to the cotton candy vendor line, their parents in tow.

Azeez, the founder and senior Imam of the Tarbiya Institute, said he encourages his community not to let fear of the political climate dissuade them from celebrating their faith.

“Eid is extremely important in that it stands as a reminder of our Muslim community. Of who they are and what they belong to and the historical legacy,” Azeez said.

Khan says the fear of something bad happening to large gatherings of Muslims in public spaces is always in the back of her mind, but it will never stop her from worshiping and celebrating with her loved ones.

“We come together, even stronger and better,” Khan said. “(Eid) is a symbol of unity... that’s the beauty of it to me.”