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'Our commitment to help and stand by each other' - Eid Al-Adha celebrations continue to grow

Visitors attend an Eid Al-Adha festival at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch's Wigram neighbourhood in early July.
Visitors attend an Eid Al-Adha festival at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch's Wigram neighbourhood in early July. Photo: Patrick Rose

Thousands have attended community events in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton over the past week to celebrate one of the most important Islamic festivals of the year - Eid Al-Adha.

Eid Al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, a mandatory duty for Muslims that should be fulfilled at least once in their life if they are able to. The festival falls on the 10th day of the final month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It was celebrated this year on 29 June, with festivities extending throughout the weekend.

The events started with prayers in the morning. An Eid carnival then followed that included activities for children such as bouncy castles, candy floss and cotton candy stands, Quran quizzes, gladiator duels and face painting. Older participants were invited to enjoy food stalls, henna art, sausage sizzles, information kiosks and ethnic clothing counters.

The biggest gathering took place in Auckland, where more than 5000 people attended the two events organised by the New Zealand Eid Day Trust.

"We have been organising Eid celebrations in Auckland for over 12 years now, with the last few years at the Eden Park," said Javed Dadabhai, chairman of the trust. "But this year, due to factors beyond our control, we had to change our venue and the format. The celebrations were shorter and spread across Manukau and Henderson.

"While this was certainly disappointing, a silver lining was the extension of New Zealand Eid Day to Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch."

Similar events took place in Auckland organised by Maunatul Islam Trust of New Zealand and South Auckland Muslim Association in Māngere, the North Shore Islamic Association at the Netball Harbour Stadium in Northcote and the Dawoodi Bohra community in Henderson.

The Federation of Islamic Association of New Zealand organised an event at the Porchester Islamic Centre in Auckland.

Rana Arif, one of the organisers of an event in Hamilton, said the celebrations were spread across two days.

"We organised a prayer meeting on the Eid Day," Arif said. "This was followed by the community event on the weekend, with almost 1000 people attending. We did it in association with the Waikato Muslim Association, which is the main Muslim organisation in our city.

"While Eid has always been organised here, this was the first time we did as a large community-wide event at the Claudelands Event Centre."

Mulsims pray at Eid celebrations inside Sky Stadium
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

In the capital, the commemorations organised by the New Zealand Eid Day Trust at Sky Stadium were led by Mohamed Zewada, imam of Kilbirnie Islamic Centre. Talking to RNZ, Zewada expressed hope for Eid to become a public holiday in New Zealand someday.

The Malaysian High Commission also organised an Eid celebration for Malaysian students in the capital that was supported by community organisation Ekta New Zealand, among others.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Circle of Aotearoa's Wellington chapter organised an Eid carnival at the Karori West School in Wellington, which was attended by families from diverse backgrounds.

"Eid is a reminder of sacrifice, gratitude and our commitment to help and stand by each other," the group said in a social media post. "By celebrating together, we reinforced these values in our hearts and in our community."

In Christchurch, New Zealand Eid Day event took place at the Air Force Museum in Wigram.

"Over 1500 people attended, with the focus being kids' activities. Face painting was a big hit," said Rami Dawwas, one of the organisers. "Eid is a community celebration where Muslims, non-Muslims - everyone - is welcome. Every year we are seeing more and more people participating, which is heartening to see."

Visitors attend an Eid Al-Adha festival at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch's Wigram neighbourhood in early July.
Visitors attend an Eid Al-Adha festival at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch's Wigram neighbourhood in early July. Photo: Patrick Rose

Gamal Fouda, imam of Al Noor Mosque, agreed.

"Our message every year is the same," Fouda said. "We reach out and engage with non-Muslims to spread awareness about Islam. We invite everyone to work together in understanding each other's customs, traditions, culture and religion.

"Love always trumps hate. Our fight is against racism, against conscious and unconscious bias, against white nationalism. We seek continuous support from the media, authorities and the wider community to keep winning this battle."

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Association of Canterbury held its Eid celebrations over the weekend, which will be followed by one in Auckland, organised by the Pakistan Association of New Zealand, this coming weekend. The All Sindhis of New Zealand is also organising an Eid Milan Party on 8 July.

"We are having a separate Eid celebration for new Muslims and their friends at An Nur Mosque over the weekend as well," Fouda said.

The imam said the 15 March, 2019, terrorist attacks in Christchurch had changed New Zealand forever.

"But Eid gives us opportunity to spread the message of love and humanity.

"(It's) a reminder to not let a tiny minority win over the vast majority which embraces diversity and multiculturalism."

Notably, the United Nations has declared 15 March to be International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

"Here in New Zealand, too, we are in discussions to mark 15 March as Islam Awareness Day," Fouda said. "On that day, anyone who wants to know more about Islam can go to a mosque and get answers."