A RALLY HAPPENED in Upper Darby last week that gave me hope and presented a challenge. The rally was organized by Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood and Kamal Rahman, one of the leaders of the Masjid Al-Madinah Upper Darby Islamic Center. Chitwood told me the rally was talked about over the last few months and was intended to clearly denounce ISIS, underline the alliance of the Islamic Center and the police department and serve as a direct statement about the pride that the Muslim citizens had in being Americans.
Chitwood told me 60 to 75 people were at the rally. That's a good start. However, also last week, I had Ryan Boyer, one of the leaders of the Philadelphia Eid Coalition, as a guest. Boyer was advocating the idea that it was time for Philadelphia to recognize Eid al-Fitr, a holy day for Muslims that recognizes the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and Eid al-Adha, a day that recognizes the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son at God's command. Boyer noted the rising numbers of Muslims in Philadelphia. This would entail the Philadelphia government to shut down on the holy days and for the Philadelphia public schools to close.
Boyer cited a claim that Muslims numbered around 200,000 people in Philadelphia, with a significant number of the kids attending city public schools. I have researched the 200,000 claim and can't find evidence that supports it. I would concede, however, there are a significant number of Muslims in Philadelphia, and I think it's a good conversation to have about recognizing that fact.
In my radio conversation with Boyer, we talked about the fact that the number of Jewish students has decreased, but Jewish holy days are still recognized with the closure of schools. I countered that a significant number of the teaching and administrative staff are Jewish and their absence will effectively make school days on their holy days very difficult to operate.
Boyer also told me about a major rally to be held at the Clara Muhammad School in West Philadelphia to push to make these Eid holy days official holidays. I wish that this rally would also have used this moment to model the Upper Darby rally. It's fine to say that Muslims should be given the Mount Rushmore status of religions alongside Judaism and Christianity in Philadelphia. But what about affirming that the religion denounces the ISIS killers and all those using it to attack innocent people around the world?
So here is the challenge I mentioned at the lead of this column: Given the number of Muslims in Philadelphia and given the iconic status of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, why not a major rally that clearly has local Muslim leaders calling out ISIS and other terror groups and citing them as violators of the teachings of Islam? It would be good for local police leaders to be invited and for them to be concretely bonded together with widespread media coverage.
Is this challenge placing an undue burden on area Muslims? My thinking is in sync with Talal Eid, founder of the Islamic Center of Boston, who recently told the Boston media that now is the time for Muslims to plan a massive march on Washington to denounce the mounting terrorism attacks. He told the Boston Herald recently that a springtime demonstration would be to deliver a simple message to extremists: "Go to hell."
He further said: "Muslim scholars need to say anyone who participates in such killings, the Islamic centers will not provide any burial services. We Muslims need to be clear as Muslims."
I think this Muslim scholar's views are starting to be represented in other cities. I think the Upper Darby Muslims represent a growing sentiment. All this progress leads me to one burning question. Why not Philadelphia?
Teacher-turned-talk-show host Dom Giordano is heard weekdays