The place of prayer is not what is important, it’s the unity of the
community, said Dr. Narim Koleilat of Bismarck.

Though the Muslim community here is not yet big enough to have its own
worship space, about 40 men, women and children, taking a hour or so out of
their day, gathered Friday in Bismarck’s World War Memorial Building
gymnasium as Koleilat led prayers and lessons marking the festival called
Eid al-Adha, one of two primary Muslim holidays during the year, the other
being Ramadan. Regular Friday prayers are held in the chapel at St. Alexius
Medical Center, he said.

Eid al-Adha, called the Feast of Sacrifice, is the culmination of the time
of Hajj, when Muslims from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The symbol of that gathering is equality, said Abdullah Ali, of Mandan, who
with his family was among the first Muslim families in the community,
arriving almost 30 years ago from Kurdistan.

Pilgrims on Hajj, gathered together at the birthplace of Islam, all wear
the same white garment. No one can tell who you are, rich or poor, man or
woman, “all meet in the world as one family,” Ali said.

The Muslims here also are from diverse ethnic and national groups, Koleilat
said, from Jordan to Pakistan to Kurdistan to Kosovo to Palestine, and are
establishing themselves as a community.

It’s hard to put a number to the community, Ali said, because medical
professionals, who make up a good share of Muslims here, move in and out.
But religious occasions will bring anywhere from 40, Ali said, to 60 or 70,
Koleilat said.

But the community has grown noticeably in the past five or six years, Ali
said. When he and his family arrived, they were almost the only Muslim
people here.

This community has been welcoming for the most part, Koleilat said, aside
from the occasional comment that women wearing the hijab — scarf — may
hear at the mall


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