'It's bittersweet': Muslims in London, Ont. celebrate Eid al-Adha, pay tribute to Afzaal family

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday hundreds from the London community gathered at Western University for a prayer service to celebrate the start of the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha.

“It’s bittersweet because this gathering is something we’ve been yearning for, for a long time. But at the same moment, as Muslims we are here with an unhealed wound,” Imam Adnan Rajeh said in his sermon to the crowd.

It is the first time Muslims have been able to gather to celebrate Eid together since the start of the pandemic.

This year it was held outdoors to promote physical distancing, and participants were encouraged to wear their masks.

“To be here with my people, with my community after two years, it feels so great, it feels so beautiful,” said Mohammed Mubeen who participated in the service.

But the day came with sorrow as well, as the community took a moment to pay tribute to the Afzaal family. Four members of the family died on June 6 in what is being called a terrorist attack.

During his sermon, the Imam placed his blessing on the family.

“Most people coming today had a lot of mixed feelings. They want to celebrate but at the same time there’s a lot of pain and sorrow that fills people’s hearts. Especially the youth that knew the family,” said Rajeh.

Rajeh also took the opportunity to encourage the community to be proud of their culture and religion, and reminded them to stand up against injustice.

“Us as Canadians in general, Muslim or non-Muslim, to continue to stand firmly against hatred, against racism, against terrorism, bigotry and ignorance,” he said.

Eid celebrations will continue for the next four days until Friday.