YOUNGSTOWN New stamp marks Islamic festivals

A postal service spokeswoman said the stamp reflects the American public.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A new stamp commemorating two Islamic festivals -- the first U.S. stamp of its kind -- goes on sale today.
Dr. Mustansir Mir, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown, said the stamp was a good thing.
Dr. Ikram Khawaja, a Youngstown State University Professor, said he thought the stamp was going on sale in October.
When the stamp went on sale, Dr. Khawaja said, "We planned to go buy them out, that's for sure."
Khawaja said he might investigate having a local ceremony in honor of the new stamp.
One isn't scheduled locally, said Karen Harding, a spokesman for the Youngstown branch of the U.S. Postal Service.
Formal issuance: The 34-cent stamp is being formally issued today at the annual Islamic Society of North America's convention at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Des Plaines, Ill.
The postal service said the stamp commemorates the two most important festivals -- or eids -- in the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. During the festivals, Muslims wish each other "Eid mubarak," the phrase featured in Islamic calligraphy on the stamp.
"Eid mubarak" translates literally as "blessed festival," and can be paraphrased as "May your religious holiday be blessed," according to the postal service.
The first day of the Muslim lunar month of Shawwal, Eid al-Fitr signifies "The Feast of Breaking the Fast." The festival marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
Eid al-Adha comes at the end of the hajj -- the annual period of pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca that is one of the pilars of Islam -- and commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismael.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated with prayers and social gatherings and traditionally includes the sacrifice of a lamb as an act of thanksgiving for Allah's mercy. The meat is distributed among family, friends and the poor.
In 2002, Eid al-Adha will be celebrated on Feb. 23 and Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated on Dec. 6.
Islamic community: There are about 2,000 Muslims in the Youngstown-Warren area. An estimated 6 million to 7 million Muslims live in the United States.
The Islamic community in the United States is quickly growing and organizing a host of community organizations. So if an Islamic American stamp seems odd, think again.
"We do reflect the American public and what they want," said Cathy Yarosky, a spokeswoman with the postal service in Washington, D.C. "We reach out to all communities."
The Islamic stamp, like others recognizing Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Cinco de Mayo, serve a purpose beyond delivering letters.
"People find them interesting and educational," Yarosky said.
The Islamic community was enthusiastic over the idea of creating the stamp, Yarosky said.
"They are so thoughtful and so overjoyed and so grateful. They are so gracious and so wonderful to work with," she said.

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