BC Place welcomes back Muslim worshippers for Eid celebrations

Billions of Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Fitr in full swing, after two years of subdued festivities due to pandemic restrictions.

In Vancouver, thousands of worshippers are expected to file into BC Place Monday morning for prayers and celebrations.

“Here is a fantastic and a joyful occasion where the Muslim celebrates the end of Ramadan, which is the month of fasting, and the month of giving, and the month of caring for others,” said Fouad Abbassi, of Muslim Association of Canada.

"We are here to celebrate that and, and the success that happened over a month of worship and getting close to God, and revamping one's soul with regards to what's happening around us in life."

The official prayer started at 9 a.m. with the festivities and exchange of gifts happening in the afternoon.

Eid marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

The holiday is typically celebrated with communal prayers, large gatherings and festive meals, all of which were a challenge during the height of the pandemic.

“We are feeling that like everything is getting back to normal. That's what we prayed for, for a long time to our God and everything is coming through,” said Abdullah Mamun, a worshipper from Bangladesh, who is living in Vancouver.

The BC Place event is the largest Eid celebration in the province, with an estimated 7,000 people in attendance. Organizers say the event brings unity, but also showcases the diversity of the faith with people of all different races, languages and backgrounds.

Nora Edwards from Burnaby says Eid is all about family and prayers.

“It's a whole month of like, fasting and reflection. So it is a celebration. So we feast for three days. So there'll be a lot of eating today," Edwards said with a chuckle.

She’s lived in B.C. for 20 years, but she’s originally from Kuala Lumpur.

“I'm far from home. So it's a little bit nostalgic like you feel like usually we are with families and I have my children here somewhere. I feel great. I feel happy, but there's a little bit of sadness because I'm away from home,” Edwards told CTV News. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent his warmest wishes to the Islamic community.

“Canada is a diverse country and everyone should feel safe. And my friends, it's our shared responsibility to make that a reality. Muslim Canadians make tremendous contributions to Canada's national fabric and today we celebrate those contributions,” Trudeau said in a video posted on Twitter.

Trudeau hosted an Iftar in Ottawa and spent time with the Muslim community in Cambridge, Ont.

“We spoke about what this month means for Muslims and how special it was to be able to come together again at your mosques for prayer and to community centers with friends and family. I also heard about your concerns and your fears, fears that Islamophobia continues to be on the rise. But I also heard about your resilience and your optimism,” said Trudeau in the video.

Premier John Horgan also offered his best wishes.

"On behalf of every British Columbian, I wish all those who observed this holy month a joyous end to Ramadan. Eid Mubarak!" wrote Horgan in a statement.

"This year's Eid al-Fitr celebrations will be special, as we once again welcome the opportunity to see familiar faces and mark this important occasion with loved ones."

He noted the acts of generosity and compassion, especially for those in need, are central to Eid al-Fitr.

“Through volunteerism, selfless giving and serving as local leaders, the Muslim community continues to help build a stronger British Columbia,” he wrote. 

There are no sweeping pandemic restrictions in place for the event at BC Place, but organizers are reminding people not to attend if they’re feeling sick. 

The Muslim Association of Canada estimates there to be more than 100,000 Muslims living in B.C.