The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 7, 2001

Opinions



Happy Eid, too!

The U.S. Postal Service is offering four holiday stamps this year: Hanukkah, Christmas (in religious and non-religious versions), Kwanzaa and, for the first time, Eid.

Eid, Arabic for feast day or holiday, refers to either of the two major Islamic holidays: Eid al-Fitr (Feast of Fast-breaking) at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, which will probably be December 16 this year; and Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) at the climax of the pilgrimage to Mecca, probably February 23, 2002. Regional sightings of the new moon determine the exact date of these holidays. The Islamic calendar is lunar, but unlike the Jewish calendar, it has no leap months. Thus, the years always come up short, resulting in a continuous moving up of the holidays by about 11 days every year.

So, should recognition of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr be added to our public December holiday celebrations, at least this year?

In the past few years, many school and other public "Christmas" festivities have been renamed "holiday" celebrations in order to be more inclusive. In some cases, the change has only been the token addition of Hanukkah symbols or songs. Sometimes the mixing of unrelated holidays in one celebration just doesn't work. Do those of the minority religion feel more comfortable attending what is otherwise a Christmas tradition, such as a tree-lighting ceremony? Probably not. If, however, the event is meant to be an educational activity for children, by exposing them to multiple holiday traditions, then even a token recognition of other faiths' holidays can be a good idea, as is done at my daughter's preschool. The combination of holiday symbols may also be welcoming to the families that have a combination of traditions due to interfaith marriage. An event that focuses on a theme such as food or music, such as a holiday concert, could appropriately feature a combination of cultural-religious traditions.

If our schools, preschools, and other programs are teaching our kids about Kwanzaa, despite its low or non-existent observance by Carlisle families, then we certainly should be giving the same educational attention to Ramadan/Eid al-Fitr. Based on my own travel experience and studies of the Middle East, I have offered to speak about Ramadan to my son's kindergarten class.

I know there are individual Muslims married to non-Muslims in Carlisle, but I have not yet determined whether any entirely Muslim families reside among us. This does make a difference when it comes to holiday observances. No matter the religion, holiday traditions are more often kept up by the mother than the father, and most of our interfaith Muslim families have a Muslim father and non-Muslim mother. For these families, the public recognition of Muslim holidays might be welcomed.

As for including Ramadan music in a holiday concert, I'm looking into this. The First Religious Society (FRS) puts on a winter holiday concert that includes Christmas, Hanukkah, and non-holiday songs. Would they consider performing a Muslim holiday song? The intent is there, I found, but finding the appropriate material is the problem. As the FRS musical director explained, Muslim religious music tends to be mostly chants. There must be something for kids, I thought. So, I went on the web, located and purchased a recording of English-language western-style Islamic (including Ramadan) songs for children. I was a little late this year, but maybe next year the FRS concert will include one of these songs. After that, we'll have to wait another generation until Ramadan falls in December again.



'You've got mail!'

I always have mail. Lots and lots of e-mail. But most of it is not from family, friends, subscription news services, or even my favorite online catalogs. Most of it is unsolicited. I have been offered low mortgage rates, cruise vacations, stock tips, and whiter teeth ­and a whole lot more that is obscene and unprintable. It is junk mail, spam, or UBE, unsolicited bulk e-mail.

It started invading my e-mailbox several months ago and now I receive six to eight UBEs per day. How did I become a target? I don't chat and only rarely buy anything on the Internet, from presumably impeccable websites like Amazon.com and L.L.Bean. Perhaps I'm the victim of some computer that systematically generates e-mail addresses using every possible combination of letters. But if that were true, everyone would have this problem. Clearly, someone has sold my address down the electronic river.

Some unsolicited messages provide an automatic way to "unsubscribe." My service provider, AOL, warns against responding as this may simply confirm my address. Instead AOL encourages blocking mail from offending addresses. This is a tedious process which requires a lot of pointing and clicking and only keeps out repeat offenders. In addition, AOL suggests that I forward any offending or annoying UBEs to their junk mail address and they promise to investigate and prosecute spammers. There is pending legislation in Massachusetts (House, No. 3707) prohibiting "intra-state unsolicited commercial electronic mail," but if passed, I wonder who would enforce it.

Needing a way to strike back, I have followed AOL's suggestions, but they have not slowed down the avalanche. Perhaps the only solution is to change my address after I finish my Christmas shopping. For now, when the perky electronic voice announces, "You've got mail!" the thrill is gone.


2001 The Carlisle Mosquito