Muslim holiday falls on day after 9/11 — so don’t misunderstand celebrations, NJ officials say
A major Muslim holiday that draws large crowds praying and celebrating in public places, Eid al-Adha, will take place this year on Sept. 12.
That’s the day after Sept. 11, the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Law enforcement and religious officials are worried that the faithful celebrations might be mistaken for celebration of the attacks.
“We just want to make sure that our communities are all aware that this celebration will be taking place, and that our law enforcement partners are aware of it as well, so no one can misconstrue the activity that will be taking place,” said Rosemary Martorana, director of intelligence for the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump last year made headlines when he made the debunked claim that he saw "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating the terrorist attack on 9/11.
After Trump's remarks, Gov. Chris Christie defended the city's Muslim residents.
“The fact is, people can say whatever they like," Christie said. "But the facts are the facts, and that did not happen in New Jersey that day, and it hasn’t happened since.”
Christie later endorsed Trump for president.
Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God.
Martorana said at this time there is no credible threat information indicating any activity to target the Muslim community, however, because it’s so close to Sept. 11, “we’ve been working with our counter-terrorism coordinators as well as our state and local law enforcement partners to inform them about the holiday and as always, asking to report any suspicious activity to our office.”
Martorana stressed the Office of Homeland Security has made what she terms huge strides in the last few years to share information with the Muslim-American and other religious communities in the state.
“This is critical because the public is our first line of defense,” she said.
Martorana said if anyone sees or hears something that seems odd or threatening in relation to the upcoming festival they should report it to local law enforcement, and to the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, by calling 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ.
Imam W. Deen Shareef, convener of the Council of Imams in New Jersey, says having the festival so close to the 9/11 anniversary is a concern.
“We have discussed the misperceptions people may have about the purpose of the observance and the celebrations that go with it,” he said. “The Imams are certainly going to take whatever precautions are necessary in order to make sure the participants in the Eid observance are not threatened in any way by any irrational actions that anyone may take.”
He stressed that “the Eid has nothing to do with Sept. 11. It just happens to fall near that day by virtue of the lunar calendar.
Mohammad Chaudry, president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, said the festival, which is the second holiest day that Muslims observe, is not traditionally thought of as a high risk security event, “but all Mosques will be told to be in touch with and work closely with local police."
Chaudry explained that part of the tradition is to sacrifice a lamb or goat and share the meat with neighbors and friends.
The Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness will be meeting with the Interfaith Advisory Council on Sept. 8, as well as with the state Attorney General’s Office Muslim outreach committee, to ensure that “we are providing them with situational awareness and tangible products in addressing any of their security needs moving forward.”
She also said her office does this ahead of all major religious holidays to ensure congregations of all faiths can gather and pray safely.
Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
More from New Jersey 101.5: