BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (KMSP) - Eid Al Adha is the biggest religious holiday in the Muslim world. Thousands of Muslims from across Minnesota turned out at the Mall Of America Monday to bring an age old tradition into a new world.
"The reason we come to the mall is they have everything. The kids can play. You can see family you haven't seen in a long time," Deka Ali, who traveled from East Grand Forks, N.D., said.
To honor the end of the Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, many Minnesota Muslims make a pilgrimage of their own to the Mall Of America to shop, visit with family and friends and of course, go on rides, for the holiest of holidays, Eid Al Adha.
It is the second of two Eid holidays; the other marks the end of Ramadan, which are attended by anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 Muslims at the MOA.
"The Mall Of America is part of our Somali culture here in Minnesota,” volunteer and Somali community organizer Abdi Bihi said. “We love malls. We have seven Somali malls. This is where we work, where we shop and where we enjoy. We feel very safe and a part of it.”
The day began with morning prayers at the Minneapolis Convention Center and at a park in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to commemorate the prophet Ibrihim's willingness to sacrifice his only son, who God eventually replaced with a lamb.
But instead of slaughtering an animal to share with loved ones and the poor like back in Somalia, many Muslims in Minnesota opt for the food court at the MOA, to not only nourish the bodies, but to feed the souls of the next generation.
"The majority, over 70 percent, are young people. They were born here. Their food is American food. That's how they slaughter – pizzas," Bihi said.
But for many, a day of sacrifice and giving is the best way to take this age old tradition for a ride.
"I'm glad I’m surrounded by family and friends and my kids are happy. It’s all about that. Seeing the glow in them for the holiday," Ali said.
One of the biggest problems is parents losing track of their kids, so there are plenty of volunteers to help out. Volunteers also help translate for mall security and stores who want to offer their services to Muslim visitors.