By Mary E. O’Leary Register Topics Editor
Click the images for larger size. NEW HAVEN — For Jimmy E. Jones, there was a lot of personal satisfaction in Monday’s service observing the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha.
In the past decade, the Muslim community in Greater New Haven has had to book increasingly bigger facilities to accommodate their growing numbers so they can pray together on feast days.
An estimated 1,000 men, women and children engaged in prayer in the cavernous Coxe Cage at Yale University Monday, arriving before 8 a.m.
A decade ago, Jones, who is the amir, or leader, at Masjid al-Islam on George Street, would have met with other Muslims at the Community Outreach Center on Goffe Street.
As participation in the mosque grew, members used the gymnasium at Career High School where about 600 people gathered.
With 1,000 in attendance Monday, there was room for more at the large Yale facility, located close to two local mosques, Masjid al-Islam in New Haven and the New Haven Islamis Center in West Haven.
Jones said there is tremendous growth in the number of Muslims, not only in Greater New Haven, but in Hartford, Stamford and New London, although official numbers are hard to find.
The Pew Research Center in 2007 released a study estimating the number of Muslims nationwide at 2.35 million, with 65 percent foreign born. Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary, said pinning down the number in Connecticut would be a good research project,
“I also have the impression that the numbers have increased greatly in the last decade,” Mattson said in an e-mail.
Jones, the associate professor of world religions at Manhattanville College in New York, has been a longtime activist in New Haven since he arrived in the city in 1968 to attend the Yale Law School.
The crowd at Coxe Cage represented the many faces of Islam in America, said Jones, with Muslims from South Asia, Arab Muslims, Sub-Saharian Muslims and African-Americans praying together.
“The mosaic of Islam is very much represented here. This is what we work toward: trying to get people from all over the world to work together. In one sense, America is unique ... you won’t find this kind of diversity anyplace else,” said Jones, who is a convert.
Eid-al-Adha commemorates the end of the Hajj, or visit to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, a journey every able-bodied Muslim is expected to make sometime in his or her lifetime.
The holiday honors Abraham, who Muslims believe was willing to sacrifice his son, at God’s request, until God intervened and substituted a lamb for the boy — a Biblical story they share with Jews and Christians.
As part of Eid-al-Adha, families or mosques will contract with slaughterhouse here and overseas to prepare meat for donation to the poor. Jones said that will likely happen this weekend.
Jones said Masjid al-Islam also recently started an economic survival initiative in light of hard economic times people in Greater New Haven are facing. He said they conduct food distribution at the masjid weekly, based on availability. “The meat will be used as a supplement to that,” Jones said.
In addition, they run an education effort on budgeting and provide a non-interest loan fund for people and offer some charity when bills are overwhelming.