Press Releases

Hajj Publicity Resource Kit

Thousands of Muslim pray at Islams most holy site the Grand Mosque in Mecca during the culmination of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Picture Source: Reuters
Thousands of Muslim pray at Islams
most holy site the Grand Mosque in
Mecca during the culmination of the
annual Hajj pilgrimage. Picture Source: Reuters.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

HAJJ PUBLICITY RESOURCE KIT

The following publicity materials may be modified and used by local communities to publicize Hajj. When modifying the news releases, include references to local Hajj activities and contact information for local spokespeople. Send to the newspaper “city editor,” television station “assignment editors” and radio station “news directors.” Just call each
media outlet to get the contact information. Also send to the “daybook editor” at the nearest Associated Press bureau.

CONTENTS:

* U.S. MUSLIMS LEAVE FOR PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA >>
* HAJJ Q&A >>
* SAMPLE EID MOSQUE OPEN HOUSE MEDIA ADVISORY >>
* STEPS NECESSARY TO HOLD A MOSQUE OPEN HOUSE >>
* WELCOME TO OUR MOSQUE BROCHURE >>

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

U.S. MUSLIMS LEAVE FOR PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/6/2005) – Thousands of American Muslims will soon take
part in religious observances associated with the annual Hajj, or
pilgrimage to Mecca. Hajj is one of the “five pillars” of the Islamic
faith. (The other pillars include a declaration of faith, daily prayers,
offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.)
Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the
physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.

When the main portion of the pilgrimage is completed, Muslims worldwide
gather for communal prayers on the first day (January 21*) of Eid ul-Adha
(eed-al-ODD-ha), the second of the two major Muslim holidays.

The obligatory and optional activities of Hajj include:

* Entrance into a state of self-control called ihram, during which pilgrims
are forbidden to harm living creatures, even insects or plants, or raise
the voice in anger. The state of ihram is signified (for men) by the
wearing of two pieces of unsewn white cloth. This clothing signifies the
equality of all before God. No specific clothing is prescribed for female
pilgrims.

* Circling of the Ka’aba (Tawaf), the stone building Muslims believe was
originally built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. The Ka’aba is viewed as
the first sanctuary on earth dedicated to the worship of the One God. It is
a symbol of unity for Muslims because all prayers, wherever they are
performed, are oriented in the direction of the Ka’aba.

* The Sa’i, or “hastening” between two small hills near the Ka’aba, to
commemorate Hagar’s search for water to offer her son Ishmael.

* The “Day of Arafah” on January 20.* Arafah is a mountain and its
surrounding empty plain near Mecca. On this day, the climax of the Hajj
season, pilgrims assemble for supplication to God.

* The stoning of three pillars representing Satan’s temptation of Abraham.
The stoning indicates the pilgrim’s rejection of evil deeds.

* Cutting the hair to symbolize the completion of Hajj.

* Sacrifice of an animal to help the poor, and in remembrance of Abraham’s
willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God’s command. The meat is
distributed to relatives and to the needy.

CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 30 offices and
chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding
of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American
Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

(* Because the beginning of Islamic lunar months depends on the actual
sighting of the new moon, the start date for Hajj and Eid ul-Adha may vary.)

– END –

CONTACT: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: ihooper@cair-net.org;
Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, E-Mail: rahmed@cair-net.org

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HAJJ Q&A

Q: WHAT DOES THE QURAN SAY ABOUT HAJJ?

A: In the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, God says: “Thus We settled Abraham
at the site of the House (the Ka’aba) [saying]: ‘Do not associate anything
with Me, and purify My house for those who walk around it, and those who
stand there (praying), and those who bow down on their knees in worship.
Proclaim the pilgrimage among mankind: they will come to you on foot and on
every lean (beast of burden); Let them come from every deep ravine, to bear
witness to the advantages they have, and to mention God’s name on appointed
days…” Chapter 22, verses 26-28


Q: WHAT DO MUSLIMS BELIEVE THEY GAIN FROM HAJJ?

A: The main benefit of Hajj for many people is the sense of purification,
repentance and spiritual renewal it instills. After his Hajj, Malcolm X
wrote in his autobiography: “…I have eaten from the same plate, drank
from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) – while
praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims whose eyes were bluest of the
blue, whose hair was blondest of the blonde and whose skin was whitest of
the white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the
white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among black African
Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana…In the past I permitted myself to be
used to make sweeping indictments of…the entire white race…Because of
the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as a result of
my recent pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to
the sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the
life of a true Muslim.”

Q: WHY DOES HAJJ BEGIN ON A DIFFERENT DAY EACH YEAR?

A: Because Dhul-Hijjah is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days
earlier each year.

Q: WHY DO MUSLIMS SACRIFICE A LAMB OR OTHER ANIMAL DURING THE FESTIVAL OF EID UL-ADHA?

A: The sacrifice commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice
his son, identified in Islam as Ishmael, at God’s request. This is not a
blood offering. In the Quran God states: “Neither their meat nor their
blood ever reaches God, but heedfulness on your part does reach Him.”
(Chapter 22, verse 37) The meat is distributed to relatives and to the needy.

Q: IS HAJJ AN OBLIGATION ON ALL MUSLIMS?

A: Yes, but only for those who are physically and financially able to make
the trip.

Q: WHAT ARE THE MOST VISUALLY STRIKING ASPECTS OF HAJJ?

A: All pilgrims must do tawaf, or circling the Ka’aba. This obligation
creates a stunning scene as thousands of people circle the building at all
times of the day and night. Also, the standing at Arafah on the 9th day of
the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah presents a scene in which several million
people all dressed alike and with the same intention to worship God, gather
on a barren plain.

Q: HOW SHOULD NON-MUSLIM FRIENDS AND CO-WORKERS INTERACT WITH SOMEONE WHO IS GOING ON HAJJ OR CELEBRATING AT HOME?

A: Hajj is a high point in a Muslim’s life. Questions are welcome and
congratulations are in order. Most communities welcome visitors at Eid
ul-Adha prayers. Just ask a Muslim friend to act as an escort and guide.

————————————————————————————–


– MEDIA ADVISORY –

LOCAL MUSLIMS TO HOLD MOSQUE OPEN HOUSE
Event to feature food, tours and exhibits for people of all faiths

SAMPLE EID MOSQUE OPEN HOUSE MEDIA ADVISORY

WHAT: On January ___, the Muslim community in [name of local community]
will celebrate the end of the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj, with a
mosque open house. The open house is scheduled to coincide with the Islamic
holiday of Eid ul-Adha (EED-al-ODD-ha), or “festival of the sacrifice,”
which comes at the end of the pilgrimage. At the evening event, people of
all faiths will be able to sample foods from around the Muslim world, take
a guided tour of the mosque and browse through informational displays of
books and other items explaining the basics of Islam.

Eid ul-Adha commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his
son Ishmael at God’s command. The holiday is celebrated with the prayers,
small gifts for children, distribution of meat to the needy and social
gatherings. During this holiday, Muslims exchange the greeting “Eid
Mubarak” or “blessed Eid.”

(Each year, more than two million Muslims go on Hajj. There are [number] of
Muslims in [local community], an estimated seven million in America and
some 1.2 billion worldwide.)

WHEN: January ___, [Time Period]

WHERE: [Address and Directions]

COST: Free of Charge

CONTACT: For information, call [local contact].

NOTE: Because this is a house of worship, reporters and photographers of
both sexes should dress modestly. That means no shorts for men or short
skirts for women. Female reporters and photographers may be asked to put a
scarf over their hair while in the actual prayer area. Photographers are
advised not to step directly in front of worshipers and to ask permission
for close-up shots.

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STEPS NECESSARY TO HOLD A MOSQUE OPEN HOUSE

1. PREPARE the members of your local community by explaining the necessity
of building a positive image of the mosque in the surrounding area. Let
them know that experience of other communities has shown that a positive
neighborhood image offers many benefits. Ask for input concerning the
details of when and at what time the open house should be held. There are
no hard and fast rules for such things.

2. INVITE local community leaders, clergy, law enforcement officials,
activists, and government officials. Remember to invite the mayor,
congressional representatives, the chief of police and members of the city
council. These people should all receive written invitations. Follow up
with a personal phone call. Letters are not enough.

3. PUBLICIZE the event by sending a well-written news release (see sample)
to the local media. You may also place paid advertisements in the local
newspaper. Send the news release to the religion calendar editor, the city
editor and the feature editor at the newspaper. Send a release to the
assignment editor at the local television stations. Also send copies to
news directors at the local radio stations. Send announcements to local
churches.

4. INFORM your guests of mosque etiquette before they arrive (see “Welcome
to Our Mosque” brochure). This will make them feel at ease and avoid
embarrassment. Be ready to answer questions about prayer, separation of men
and women and other common issues.

5. CLEAN the mosque. The first impression is one that will last. Make sure
bathrooms are spotless. Have a mosque clean up day prior to the open house.

6. SET UP a reception area where guests can be received, told about mosque
etiquette and served refreshments. Have greeters at the door to direct
arriving guests. Have knowledgeable people conduct tours of the facility.
Do not leave guests alone to wander about the mosque. Give each guest a
name tag. Make sure sisters are available to make female guests feel welcome.

7. SELECT literature to be given to the guests. Do not push materials on
guests. Let them select what they wish to read.

8. POST signs at appropriate locations in the facility.

9. PRAY that your efforts will open the hearts of your guests.

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WELCOME TO OUR MOSQUE

We hope you enjoy your visit.

Q: WHAT IS A MOSQUE?
A: A mosque is a place of worship used by Muslims. The English word
“mosque” is derived from its Arabic equivalent, masjid, which means “place
of prostration.” It is in the mosque that Muslims perform their prayers, a
part of which includes placing the forehead on the floor.

Q: HOW IS A MOSQUE USED?
A: Mosques play a vital role in the lives of Muslims in North America. The
primary function of the mosque is to provide a place where Muslims may
perform Islam’s obligatory five daily prayers as a congregation. A mosque
also provides sufficient space in which to hold prayers on Fridays, the
Muslim day of communal prayer, and on the two Muslim holidays, called Eids,
or “festivals.”

Q: IS A MOSQUE A HOLY PLACE?
A: A mosque is a place that is specifically dedicated as a place of prayer.
However, there is nothing sacred about the building or the place itself.
There is no equivalent of an altar in a mosque. A Muslim may pray on any
clean surface. Muslims often pray in public places.

Q: HOW BIG ARE MOSQUES?
A: In North America, mosques vary in size from tiny storefronts serving a
handful of worshippers, to large Islamic centers that can accommodate
thousands.

Q: DO MOSQUES WELCOME VISITORS?
A: Mosques in North America welcome visitors. Tours can be arranged at most
facilities. It is always best to call mosque administrators before arrival.
They will want to make sure your visit is enjoyable.

Q: WHAT ARE THE DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF A MOSQUE?
A: The musalla, or prayer hall, in each mosque is oriented in the
direction of Mecca, toward which Muslims face during prayers. In North
America, Muslim worshippers face northeast. Prayer halls are open and
uncluttered to accommodate lines of worshippers who stand and bow in
unison. There are no pews or chairs. Members of the congregation sit on the
floor.

Because Muslim men and women form separate lines when they stand in
prayers, some mosques will have a balcony reserved for the use of women.
Other mosques will accommodate men and women in the same musalla, or they
may have two separate areas for men and women.

Q: WHAT ELSE IS IN THE PRAYER AREA?
A: All mosques have some sort of mihrab, or niche, that indicates which
wall of the mosque faces Mecca. The mihrab is often decorated with Arabic
calligraphy. Its curved shape helps reflect the voice of the imam, or
prayer leader, back toward the congregation. Many mosques also have a
minbar, or pulpit, to the right of the mihrab. During the Friday prayer
service, the imam delivers a sermon from the minbar.

Q: WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN IN THE PRAYER AREA?
A: Children will often be present during prayers, whether participating,
watching or imitating the movements of their elders. Their presence
continues the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, who behaved tenderly
toward children. The Prophet sometimes carried one of his grandchildren on
his shoulder while leading the prayer and was also known to shorten the
prayer if he heard a baby cry.

Q: WHAT MIGHT I HEAR DURING MY VISIT?
A: You might hear Muslims exchanging the Islamic greeting, the Arabic
phrase “as-salaam alaykum” (“peace be with you”). Muslims return this
greeting by saying, “wa alaykum as-salaam” (“and with you be peace”).

You might also hear the call to prayer. The call, or adhan, contains the
following phrases (in Arabic):

God is most great, God is most great.
God is most great, God is most great.
I bear witness that there is no god but God.
I bear witness that there is no god but God.
I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger of God.
I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger of God.
Hasten to prayer, Hasten to prayer.
Hasten to success, Hasten to success.
God is most great, God is most great.
There is no god but [the One] God.

All Muslim prayers begin with recitation of Al-Fatihah, the opening chapter
of the Qur’an:

In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.
The Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.
Ruler of the Day of Judgment.
Only You do we worship, Only You we ask for help.
Show us the straight path.
The path of those whom You have favored,
not that of those who earn Your anger, nor those who go astray.

Q: WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE BUILDING?
A: Many mosques have a minaret, the large tower used to issue the call to
prayer five times each day. In North America, the minaret is largely
decorative. Facilities to perform wudu, or ablutions, can be found in all
mosques. Muslims wash their hands, faces and feet before prayers as a way
to purify and prepare themselves to stand before God. Wudu facilities range
from wash basins to specially designed areas with built-in benches, floor
drains and faucets.

Bookshelves are found in most mosques. They contain works of Islamic
philosophy, theology and law, as well as collections of the traditions and
sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Copies of the Quran, Islam’s revealed
text, are always available to worshippers.

Calligraphy is used to decorate nearly every mosque. Arabic quotations from
the Quran invite contemplation of the revealed Word of God. Other common
features found in the mosque are clocks or schedules displaying the times
of the five daily prayers and large rugs or carpets covering the musalla
floor. Many American mosques also have administrative offices.

Q: IS A MOSQUE USED EXCLUSIVELY FOR PRAYER?
A: Though its main function is as a place of prayer, the mosque plays a
variety of roles, especially in North America. Many mosques are associated
with Islamic schools and day care centers. Mosques also provide diverse
services such as Sunday schools, Arabic classes, Quranic instruction, and
youth activities.

Marriages and funerals, potluck dinners during the fasting month of
Ramadan, and Eid prayers and carnivals are all to be found in North
American mosques. They are also sites for interfaith dialogues and
community activism.

Many mosques serve as recreational centers for the Muslim community and may
have a gymnasium, game room and weight equipment, as well as a library and
classrooms.

Q: DO MOSQUES HAVE SPECIAL RULES?
A: Men and women should always dress conservatively when visiting a mosque,
covering their arms and legs. Examples of inappropriate clothing would be
shorts for men and short skirts for women.

Shoes are always left at the entrance to the prayer area so as not to soil
the rugs or carpets. Shelves are usually provided to hold shoes. Women may
be asked to cover their hair when visiting a mosque. Many mosques have
scarves on hand for visitors to borrow, but it is better to bring a head
covering in case none are available.

Visitors to mosques should behave as they would when visiting any religious
institution, but they should feel free to ask questions about the mosque,
its architecture, furnishings, and activities. Muslims are happy to answer
questions about their religion.

 

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