21 September 2009

Eid in The Hague (& later Copenhagen)


After the wonderfully different iftaar I met with Asma, a Dutch woman who stars in a local TV show “Girls of Halal”, and Zana from Sweden who is an organizer of major Islamic and other events. We went to pray the last Taraweeh at an Indonesian Musjid in West Amsterdam but we got there a bit late and the doors were locked. We then quickly rushed to another nearby Musjid where the three Imaams recited beautifully.
After Taraweeh, even though it was getting late, we decided to visit a third friend, Faisal, in Den Haag, or The Hague, a 40 min drive from Amsterdam. We chatted Muslim society and politics the whole time and before we knew it we were outside Faisals house. He took us down to the beachfront where we had some good discussion.

Having not slept the well on the plane the previous night, I was knackered. Fell asleep in the car on the way back to Amsterdam and only got up when we reached my hotel. I knocked out and had a solid sleep till late Saturday morning.

Caught up with some emails and admin when I woke up and then went out to explore Amsterdam. This was my second visit to this tourist filled city so I was quickly bored and returned to my hotel room after a short excursion. Checked out of the hotel and walked to the central station where I was picked up by Asma. We took Zana to the airport to catch his flight to Sweden and from there I took a train to The Hague. Met with Faisal who took me to visit a good Jordanian friend of mine working at the ICC. Spent the afternoon with him and then went to a local Indonesian Musjid for the last ifar of Ramadan 09. On the way I got a call from Islamonline radio where I discussed my experiences.

We arrived at the Musjid as Maghrib azaan was going and the atmosphere was amazing. From the foyer to the building, people were bustling all over the show. Young and old, males and females, mainly Indonesians and a few others were breaking fast with delicious Indonesian goodies. It was strange to see Indonesians all speaking to each other in this Afrikaans sounding language. In no time I was stuffing my face and chatting to many of the friendly young people there. Everybody filed upstairs to the Musjid area to pray, men from the front of the hall and women from the back. After Maghrid Salaah the Takbir was melodiously recited in a manner that reminded me of Cape Town. I suppose many Muslims in Cape Town have similar Indonesian roots. What also really impressed me was that after prayer everyone lines up and greets everyone else – but men and women separately of course.

More delicious food was served after the prayer and I chatted to a Dutch revert, married to an Indonesian, who was an active “Green Muslim”. His group arranged regularly for the slaughter of have animals that are organically reared and well treated. He felt, and I totally agree with him, that Muslims need to be at the forefront of the movement promoting conscious and ethical consumption. Rounding the meal off with good strong coffee and delicious ginger tea, we joined the takbir recitation before the Esha prayer.

After prayer we headed to Faisals home where I spent the night. His family was really warm and welcoming and we were up till late talking. Had a hard time waking up for Fajr and then again for the Eid prayer. I’ve experienced Eid in a few different countries in the past few years and one universal Eid experience is the rush in the morning to shower and get done in time for the prayer! Even though it was only 9am here (compared to 6.30am in SA) we were still quite panicky and rushed and just made it to the hall in time.

The Eid prayer was hosted by an organization called Minhajul Quran and was almost totally Pakistani. I obviously couldn’t understand the Imaam during his Khutba, not becaues he spoke in Dutch but because it was in Urdu. Someone from the Pakistani embassy was a VIP guest and hence was given a few minutes to address the crowd. Anyone who knows Pakistani politics, would appreciate this more. After prayer we greeted hundreds (ok, but it was a lot) of people and then left. On the way to the car we stumbled across another little Musjid on the corner close by. Faisal spoke to people there who explained that it was a fairly new center for people of Indonesian decent who came from Surinam. There is a special Dutch word for them too, as they are very different from the immigrants who came straight from Indonesia. I guess its like the difference between someone like me and someone from India moving to London.

The rest of the day was a constant buffet feast. We moved around a bit and ate loads wherever we went, often not by choice. Before I knew it it was time to pack my bags and head for the airport so that I could spend the rest of Eid in Copenhagen.

Typed this out while waiting for my flight. Made a mistake of sitting near the escalator, so the Dutch voice is stuck in my head now: Mind your gap!

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