Several thousand Muslims have populated the Mitchel sports complex in Uniondale on Tuesday morning to celebrate one of the holiest days of the year in Islam.
The faithful mark the beginning of the three-day festival of Eid al-Adha, or the sacrificial feast. It is the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which all Muslims have to do at least once in their lives, if they are physically and financially capable.
"It's festive and it humbles us because we begin our day with prayer," said Faisal Zakaria, 44, chief application officer at NYU's Winthrop Hospital in Mineola. "It all comes back to God."
Similar services have been held in more than two dozen mosques across Long Island, where an estimated 80,000 Muslims live.
The Mitchel event was attended by leaders of The Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, which was not big enough to accommodate the large crowd, said Isma Chaudhry, the president of the mosque.
The faithful stood in long rows on plastic sheets and rugs on the floor of the athlete's complex, which usually serves as an infield for football and other sports.
The prayer service attracted politicians including Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who said that Muslims are becoming an increasingly important part of Nassau County socially, economically and politically.  Get the newsletter "Breaking News"!
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Farrah Mozawalla, director of the A Sian American Advisory Board of Nassau County, said, "For our community, which is a marginalized community, it is so important to make them feel accepted."
Like many of the faithful, Zakaria said he had a full day of celebrations planned after the prayer service, including a special brunch, lunch, and dinner with relatives and friends.
"It's going crazy," he said.
On Monday night, his family exchanged gifts, another oath tradition, much like Christmas Eve for Christians, he said.
His five-year-old son got everything on his wish list, including a 500-piece LEGO set and a railroad track, Zakaria said.
Believers came to the prayer service in elegant traditional clothing, some imported overseas
Rizwan Qureshi, 62, a banker from East Meadow, said the service was a great event, partly because he was Muslim from all over Long Iceland brought together.
"The most important thing is that we al … I come together as a community … and celebrate in one place," he said.
Believers believe that Eid al-Adha reminds the biblical patriarch Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God's command. Abraham did not kill his son as God spared the boy. Instead, Abraham sacrificed a ram.
During the festival, many Muslims slaughtered an animal – usually a lamb or a goat. They usually distribute one third of the meat to the poor and another third to relatives and friends. They keep the last third for themselves.