Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 2008, pages 64-65
Empire State Building Lit for Eid-ul-Fitr
THE EMPIRE State Building, the world’s most famous office building, celebrated Eid, the Muslim day of celebrations marking the end of Ramadan, by shining its tower lights in green. Last year, following a six-year hiatus, New York City officials resumed this tradition. Not everyone welcomed the Empire State Building’s commemoration of a Muslim holiday; in fact, officials received a number of letters and calls objecting to their inclusive gesture. Nevertheless, the observance went forward.
I cannot put into words how meaningful it was for me to walk down the streets of New York City with my family and see one of America’s most beloved monuments recognizing one of Islam’s holiest days, just as it does with Hanukkah, Christmas, and other religious holidays. I cannot tell you how grateful and how proud I am to be an American Muslim.
Why do green lights on top of a skyscraper elicit such a strong reaction in me?
Considering that this city was terrorized by individuals who called themselves Muslims, and considering that after 9/11 hate crimes against Muslims increased 1,600 percent, those green lights testify to our country’s remarkable commitment to its original and enduring value of pluralism. In the light of the challenges we, as a nation, have endured in the past few years, this may seem like a small step. But it is a symbolic leap.
Even as I am deeply heartened by the illumination of the Empire State Building for Eid, I am acutely aware that we continue to face situations that threaten America’s strong ethos of liberty and respect for all. Recently, a movie entitled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” (see article p. 28) was sent as a newspaper supplement to 28 million homes in swing states across the country. This movie, which distorts reality, plays on fear, and kicks up hatred against Muslims for political gain, is another attempt to disseminate inaccurate information for the purpose of dividing our American community. This method of popular, prejudice-based propaganda has historical precedent. It is my hope that this time we move beyond its incitements and don’t allow it to prey on our great nation.
One effective way to do this is to visit <www.changethestory.net>, an interactive Web site where Muslims and non-Muslims can engage with each other. It is my conviction that if we change this story, we will begin to change the world. For more information contact American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), by phone: (201) 868-4060; fax: (201) 868-2769; or write: P.O. Box 7376, North Bergen, NJ 07047.
—An open letter from Daisy Khan, executive director, ASMA.