Bittersweet Debut For Holiday Stamp

Muslin Holiday stamp, Greetings, Tree, RKF, 011214
After working five years to get the United States to issue an Islamic holiday postage stamp, Aminah Assilmi uses it on all her mail. But now she also adds a United We Stand stamp, even if the extra postage is unnecessary.

Assilmi, of Taylor Mill, Ky., isn't trying to solve the post office's budget problems. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, she wants to show that the Muslim community is part of America too.

The dark blue and gold “Eid Greetings” stamp was issued just 10 days before the terrorist hijackings.

Now, the Islamic community that greeted the stamp with joy is struggling to save it from oblivion.

“We are trying to reach our followers and members, whoever, to go into the communities to get people to use the stamp. Not just Muslims but friends from other religions as well,” said Faiz Rehman, communications director of the American Muslim Council.

The stamp carries English text saying “Eid Greetings” plus Arabic script that reads “Eid mubarak,” a phrase Muslims use to wish each other well during major festivals.

“Eid mubarak” translates literally as “blessed festival,” and can be paraphrased as “May your religious holiday be blessed.”

Assilmi, of the International Union of Muslim Women, started the effort after a Muslim fifth-grader who collected stamps saw the 1996 Hanukkah issue and asked her what “our” stamp looked like.

“I told him there wasn't one and he said: 'You can get one for us,”' she recalled.

The result was more than 10,000 letters to the postmaster general, 8,000 proposed designs from school children, a mile-long banner and a postcard drive that culminated in release of the Eid stamp.

Most stamps are sold for only a limited period of time. Special stamps such as those for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Cinco de Mayo can become permanent and be reissued annually if they sell well enough.

Postal Service spokeswoman Cathy Yarosky said the Eid stamp seems to be popular but it is too early for accurate sales numbers. About 75 million of the stamps were printed.

Matters were complicated when the stamp was left off a lobby poster printed by the postal service to encourage sales of holiday stamps. The agency quickly apologized and said it is having the poster reprinted.

Since the terrorist attacks, some have complained about having an Islamic-related stamp on sale. Conservative Paul Weyrich even urged that the stamp be withdrawn and the image of the World Trade Center towers printed over it.

Rehman said his organization has received a few complaining letters. He responded that the whole Muslim community should not be punished for the acts of a few cowards.

“We, like another Americans, are suffering from these attacks. There were more than 300 people of the Muslim faith who died in the attacks,” he said.

The stamp commemorates the two most important festivals, or eids, in the Islamic calendar: Ed al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Fitr is the feast of breaking the fast and marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Most American Muslims will mark that on Sunday.

Eid al-Adha takes place just over two months later, at the end of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca. It will occur on Feb. 23.

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed