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Islamic Gathering Signals Growth

Because of its increased number of members, the Northern Virginia chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community gathered at the Waterford in Fair Oaks recently, to celebrate the end of Hajj, a sacrificial holiday for Islam.

Chapter director Shahid Malik of Fairfax greeted worshipers at the door, Wednesday, Feb. 12.

"This is the first time we are meeting here, the community has grown so much," Malik said.

The end of Hajj actually celebrates Abraham’s sacrificing his son. Allah cleared the way for animals to be sacrificed instead, according to the beliefs in Islam. The holiday is celebrated every year, but the actual date varies according to the lunar cycles.

Dr. Syed Shah, the president of the chapter, attended also.

"Every year it moves up 10 days, it is according to lunar months," he said.

What Malik referred to as the Northern Virginia chapter actually covers Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. There are 48 chapters in the United States.

Salim Malik was visiting his daughter in Falls Church. He's from England and compares this celebration to the pilgrimage to Mecca. He sent a contribution to India for his sacrifice.

"A great Abraham sacrifice. All the people from different regions get together, it is a follow-on of that [Mecca]. I have sent my contribution to India for my friend to buy a goat and sacrifice it in my name," he said.

Colorful robes, burquas and discarded shoes at the door signified the religious aspect of the ceremony. As people filed in, wished each other "salaam a lakam," and knelt on their mats, Malik noted the difference between those of Islamic faith.

"We always have interfaith dialogues presenting the good," which does not include extremist actions such as terrorism. "That is not the way religious beliefs are taught. The word 'jihad,'" which many equate with holy war and terrorism, "means to strive for something," he said.

There are three stages of jihad on various levels, and separate degrees of importance. The most important is "improve yourself," then "teaching," and lastly "stand up for your rights," which might be equated with violence, according to Malik.

"In every religion, you will find extremists," he said. "We do not have extremist ideas."

Malik expected about 500 people to show up at the ceremony.