Jackson Heights community celebrates prophet's birthday

Jose Peralta

February 14, 2011

Times Ledger

Elected officials and imams join neighborhood to honor Muhammad, who was born around 570 A.D.

About 60 religious leaders, legislators and residents gathered at a mosque and a restaurant on 72nd Street in Jackson Heights Saturday for an interfaith celebration of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Run by anti-terrorist Imam Mohd Qayyoom, the event drew speakers and worshipers who spoke out for harmony between all religions and peace. 

“All faith has one goal of peace,” Qayyoom said. 

The celebration was held throughout the day at Qayyoom’s mosque, at 37-46 72nd St. in Jackson Heights, and the Pakistani eatery Gourmet Sweets and Restaurant, at 72-08 Broadway, across the street. While the prophet’s birthday, determined by the Islamic lunar calender, is considered to be Feb. 15 this year by Sunni Muslims and Feb. 20 by Shi’a Muslims, according to their respective traditions, celebrations can occur throughout the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal, Qayyoom said. 

Visitors at the Saturday event included state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Corona), City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), New York Supreme Court Justice Thomas Raffaele and Detective Juan Toro of the 115th Precinct as well as Islamic and Hindu religious leaders, residents and local business leaders. 

“It’s only fitting that [the event is] being held here as it’s representative of the United Nations of all Senate districts,” Peralta said, referring to Jackson Heights’ diverse community makeup. 

After speeches and lunch, the party took to the street and held a short parade down 72nd Street between Broadway and Roosevelt Avenue. Led by Imam G. Rasud of the Masjid Noor mosque in Staten Island, those in the parade praised the Prophet Muhammad and the prophets of Judaism and Christianity. Jalauddin Ashrafi Qadri and Fakir Mohammad Dudha chanted prayers in Urdu and Arabic. 

“One thing unites us, that is the Constitution and the beauty of this country,” Rasud said. 

Ashraful Bulbul, spokesman for the center, said about 60 people came to the event, not including those who attended the evening prayers. He said the celebration sends the message that all faiths can work together, as illustrated by the fact that people from all parts of the Middle East and the Indo-Asian continent, from Israel and Palestine to Pakistan and India, work together in Jackson Heights. 

“They learn Prophet Muhammad has never forced anyone to come to Islam but invited anyone to come to Islam if they like,” Bulbul said. 

Raffaele said he believed the celebration could be a helpful example for the children of those assembled and for the world. 

Dromm also called it a great event. 

“I really am so happy with Imam Qayyoom for bringing diverse groups of people together,” Dromm said. “That’s how we spread understanding and tolerance.”

by Rebecca Henely