Utah Muslims gathered on Salt Lake's west side Saturday in celebration of Eid al-Fitr — a religious holiday marking the end of a month of fasting during Ramadan.

Although the holiday officially fell on Thursday, local community and religious leaders said celebrating over the weekend gave more working-class members of the community a chance to join in the festivities.

Imam Yussuf Abdi, who leads the Madina Islamic Center of Utah, said the fact that Eid is not a state holiday in Utah means many of his congregation are not able to participate unless the holiday happens to fall on a weekend.

“That's one of the biggest challenges we have. ... If that could be fixed, that would be better for the community,” he said. “(It’s) very painful because it's the day that we celebrate, the day that we get together. Even for Christmas, most people they have it off and mingle with their families, even Thanksgiving. As a Muslim, as the imam, I would love to see my community celebrating together and leaving the job and having just one day off and getting together. I hope the companies, the corporations, the government and every organization will understand that.”

The Saturday celebration was organized by nonprofit Somali Community Self-Management Agency in partnership with the University of Utah's Neighborhood Partners department.

Abdirizak Ibrahim, director of Somali Community Self-Management Agency and a pillar in Utah's Somali community, said Saturday's event was the first of its kind for his community.

“This event, it's to bring the community together,” he said. “This kind of event or celebration of Eid is, for me, it's exciting. ... It will be a blessing for me because I'll be happy and see the kids playing and having fun with their family and their friends.”

Volunteers hand out snacks during the Eid al-Fitr celebration at Hartland Partnership Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
Volunteers hand out snacks during the Eid al-Fitr celebration at Hartland Partnership Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday. | Ryan Sun, Deseret News

Saturday’s event doesn't look quite the same as the Eid celebrations Ibrahim remembers back home in Somalia, but he hopes to expand the event and offer more in the years to come. This year, the agency fundraised only a small portion of its $10,000 goal for the event.

Fifteen-year-old Zanaa Bahajr said the event was a great opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate the holiday with family.

“It’s important to celebrate it because it's part of your religion and culture,” she said, adding that her favorite part of Ramadan is getting to break her fast with potato-stuffed samosas.

Nurdin Mohammed, who came to Utah from Somalia in 2009, said the celebration was a great opportunity for his three young kids. Although Mohammed tries to stay close to Allah throughout the year, Ramadan allows him to reflect on his actions and feel even closer to God.

“Since we are away from our country, when they come here, they know what their culture is and they interact with other kids,” he said. “I would like to see on such occasion, maybe we can get off from our work, and then you could see the whole community in Utah come together. This (event) I think is the beginning. Hopefully in the future, we have a bigger space and can invite more people.”