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Eid cards a popular item

By ALLIE SHAH
November 26, 2003

Add this to the list of Hallmark holidays: Eid al Fitr.

This year, the greeting card company introduced a small line of cards to mark the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the monthlong fasting season of Ramadan. The appearance of Eid cards is another sign that the holiday is gaining mainstream recognition in America.

The cards, featuring several colorful designs, appeared in 500 retail stories nationwide. The demand was certainly there. As of this week, the cards are "pretty much sold out," said Deidre Parkes, publicist for Hallmark Cards, which is based in Kansas City. There are no plans to print more cards in time for Eid al Fitr, but Hallmark probably will sell them again next year. Hallmark.com also offers a few e-cards.

It's good business, with Muslims now the fastest-growing religious group in the United States.

It's not hard anymore to scroll through Yahoo! Greetings and other Internet sites to find cards wishing "Ramadan Kareem" (Blessed Ramadan) and "Eid Mubarak" (Happy holiday). IKEA, the trendy furniture store, created ads for its Canadian Web site this year that show Muslims gathering in their well-decorated homes to celebrate Eid. Women with scarves covering their hair are shown entertaining with trays of dates and other sweets, and children play with toys advertised as "Eid gifts."

The public sector has noticed, too. Two years ago, the U.S. Post Office began issuing an Eid stamp. A small number of public schools in the country now close on Eid al Fitr just as they do on Christmas and other holidays.

"Obviously, we see it as a positive sign that there is a recognition of the Muslim community and its buying power in the United States," said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington. But the downside, he said, is that the gain for big businesses such as Hallmark might mean a loss for Muslim-owned small businesses that have created a niche by selling Eid cards and other holiday-related items.

Islamicity.com, an online Muslim community with a commercial bazaar, gets 1 million visitors a month and twice that number during Ramadan, said its CEO, Mohammed Abdul Aleem. Among the items sold on his Web site are books, board games for children, dolls, prayer rugs, Islamic art, jewelry and yes, greeting cards.

Aleem said he is not threatened by Hallmark's foray into the Eid card business. He welcomes it.

"When American businesses are catering to the needs of Muslims, it's an indication of the incorporation of Muslims into the general society," he said. "Definitely, it's a good thing."

Ramadan is a month on the Islamic calendar, a lunar calendar. From dawn to dusk every day, Muslims abstain from food, water and other sensual pleasures and pay special mind to giving to charity, the hungry and the poor. Ramadan concludes with Eid al Fitr. On this festive day, Muslims perform special prayers, visit friends and families' homes and feast together. Children often receive Eid gifts, usually money.

Eid was on Monday or Tuesday, according to the Islamic Center of Minnesota. The exact day depends on the sighting of the new moon that signals the end of Ramadan and the start of another month.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com.)

 
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