Hundreds of Chicago area Muslims unite for Spanish Eid al-Fitr service in Jefferson Park

The festivities and buffet were organized by the Ojala Foundation, which aims to allow Muslims from many backgrounds to “hang on to the culture they came in with.”

SHARE Hundreds of Chicago area Muslims unite for Spanish Eid al-Fitr service in Jefferson Park
Dozens gather around tables eating and socializing Friday during an Eid al-Fitr celebration hosted by the Ojala Foundation at LaBagh Woods.

Dozens gather around tables eating and socializing Friday during an Eid al-Fitr celebration hosted by the Ojala Foundation at LaBagh Woods.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Piñatas, pony rides and prayer mats filled Jefferson Park’s LaBagh Woods on Friday afternoon as Muslims from Chicago and neighboring suburbs celebrated Eid al-Fitr, a three-day celebration of the end of Ramadan.

Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims dedicated to prayer and reflection, is observed with fasting from sunrise to sundown.

Chicago’s Ojala Foundation, which aims to bring Latino Muslims, among others, together in their faith, returned to in-person Ramadan celebrations last year, though this year’s event brought out hundreds compared to smaller numbers in years past.

The circle of buffet-style food in one of the park’s gazebos was the main event, with the feast occurring after prayers. A variety of food from many backgrounds — including Brazilian, Pakistani and African cuisines — represented the diversity of participants.

A young boy winds up his swing at a piñata during an Eid al-Fitr celebration hosted by the Ojala Foundation at LaBagh Woods, Friday, April 21, 2023.

A young boy winds up his swing at a piñata during an Eid al-Fitr celebration hosted by the Ojala Foundation at LaBagh Woods, Friday, April 21, 2023.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

That’s by design, according to Christopher Abdulkareem Pavlicek, a co-founder of Ojala.

“We put this together because we found the Latino population and those new to Islam were finding themselves alienated, and they needed a place to fit in but hang on to the culture they came in with,” Abdulkareem Pavlicek said. “This religion doesn’t tell you to change who you are.”

He claimed Friday’s prayers, conducted in Spanish, to be the first all-Spanish Eid prayer service in Chicago — a decision the group made because of how many of their regular attendees speak Spanish almost exclusively. He also said the group is hoping to open a physical location for their group on the West Side by the end of the year.

DSC_0780.jpg

Christopher Abdulkareem Pavlicek, a co-founder of Chicago’s Ojala Foundation, leads a group in prayer during the organization’s Eid al-Fitr celebrations Friday April 21, 2023.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

Saleem Khan, 26, spent most of his day tending the grills, where 40 pounds of chicken and 60 pounds of beef were cooked. He joined the group three years ago and has been helping with food at the foundation’s larger events as a way to give back.

Khan said he’d been distant from the religion most of his life because of stigmas in certain religious circles, including his own family, making him feel excluded because he was both Indian and Mexican.

That all changed when he attended an Ojala event and heard two members speaking “real, authentic” Mexican Spanish, joking around with each other.

“I didn’t have a community at all, and I felt rejected by the Islamic community,” Khan said. “[But here] I’ve been able to meet so many new people and grow my family outside of my family. … This group redefined what it meant to be Muslim for me.”

DSC_0798.jpg

Adnan Yarkhan, 33, and Saleem Khan, 26, prep burgers for the hundreds of attendees at the Ojala Foundation’s Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Jefferson Park’s La Bagh Woods Friday, April 21, 2023.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

As for why he pushed for burgers and hot dogs at the celebration, Khan said, “They’re just easy to make and everyone loves them.”

The burgers were a hit, along with the tamales, rice and table of sweets.

Mourad Barkati, of Glenview, stacked two plates with food as he went down the line.

DSC_0804.jpg

Mourad Barkati, a Glenview resident, has food put on his plate by a volunteer at the Ojala Foundation’s Eid al-Fitr celebrations in Jefferson Park’s La Bagh Woods Friday, April 21, 2023.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

Barkati said Friday’s event was the first time he’d tried tamales, which he loved, while his wife, Amina, said she was partial to the burgers and sweets. The two agreed their three children — preoccupied with the youth activities while their parents ate — were the most excited after some “long days” of fasting.

“Maybe we cook in different ways, but our foods are their foods, too,” Barkati said. “Rice, bread, meat. … We all just enjoy different food from different places.”

The Latest
Marvel White, 16, was arguing with someone about 6:40 p.m. in the the 6500 block of South Racine Avenue. The other person then shot him in the chest and legs with a handgun.
A 47-year-old was found unresponsive in the 5300 block of South Hermitage Avenue on Tuesday, June 4. Detectives are conducting a homicide investigation.
The man, 45, was shot early Monday, June 17, in the 7600 block of North Paulina Street.
Retro rockers preview next album’s tracks in captivating set at Lincoln Hall.
You’re not going to get traded if you’re under-performing I’m not playing to the best of my capabilities.