Hatim Qadri stood in the end zone at U.S. Bank Stadium in a well-worn Randy Moss jersey and watched 15,000 of his fellow Muslims trickle out onto the turf and unfurl rugs to pray.
“In a few seconds everyone will be kneeling,” said Qadri of Eden Prairie. “Both knees on the ground [to praise] God. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
The crowd at the stadium Tuesday morning — doting mothers, disinterested teens, women in flowing robes and men in T-shirts and sneakers among them — gathered to observe the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha in an event organizers called “Super Eid.” It wasn’t the first large-scale public Eid celebration in Minnesota, but organizers said it drew about 30,000 people over two prayer sessions.
“I have been here for 43 years, and this has not happened before,” said Syed Dara who will teach chemistry at St. Catherine University this fall. “It’s really, really historic.”
The holiday honors the prophet Ibrahim, also known as Abraham in Judaism and Christianity, and his willingness to sacrifice his son for God. It comes at the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage. It is one of the holiest days of the year for Muslims, who celebrate with prayer, shared meals and gifts.
In some places, families who can afford it slaughter an animal and share the meat with family and charities. No animals were sacrificed at the stadium Tuesday.
Organizers had worried some people might protest at the stadium after misinformation about the event spread on social media. But on Tuesday, there didn’t appear to be any protesters present. Instead, people held signs with welcoming messages greeting thousands as they trickled into the stadium.
Amber Geist drove from Menomonie, Wis., on Monday, stayed with a friend and arrived at the stadium at 7:30 a.m. to show support. She said hundreds of attendees had stopped to say thank you, take pictures and give hugs.
Elham Mahmoud, of Burnsville, jumped from her place in line as she waited to get into the stadium to take a selfie with Geist and her friend Lizz Powers.
“Sometimes it feels like the hate toward us is getting more and more [prevalent],” Mahmoud said. “But there’s still loving people who want to spread their love.”
After the prayers, hundreds of people walked across the street for a carnival at the Commons park that included ziplines, inflatable bounce houses and a petting zoo.
Fathiya Yusuf steadied her iPhone to take a picture of her grinning 1-year-old son, Abdirahman, atop a brown pony. She said the prayer and carnival show her Americans’ willingness to bridge gaps and recognize shared values of faith and family.
“It was so beautiful,” she said between sips of a caramel Frappuccino. “They accept our religion, our culture, and they support us.”
For Khadija Ali, of Edina, the whole scene seemed surreal. The small business owner who runs cultural competence seminars said her community can’t often be so open in prominent public spaces. But the state continues to prove itself an accepting place, she said.
“It seems a little weird,” Ali said. “But the truth of the matter is [Minnesota is] evolving.”
The realization came in a sudden moment for Dr. Alia Sharif as she listened to the prayer service booming through the stadium speakers.
“I truly felt like this is what America is all about,” she said. “I’m an American. I can stand here at U.S. Bank Stadium and pray and I’m welcome here.”