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I survived Super Eid -- the shadowy Muslim takeover that wasn’t

The most dangerous thing about Super Eid was maybe the bouncy castle.

The most dangerous thing about Super Eid was maybe the bouncy castle. Hannah Jones

 Earlier this month, a subset of Twitter thought it had stumbled upon a secret Muslim plot.

Users warned of a gargantuan gathering -- some posts said over 50,000 Muslims -- and a mass slaughter of animals, all to take place in Minneapolis’ beloved U.S. Bank Stadium. Some recommended protesting with a massive pork tailgate. Some tagged animal rights organization PETA. Some tagged the Vikings -- though it’s unclear what they were expected to do about it.

If any of them had showed up Tuesday afternoon, they would have taken in the true nature of this mysterious religious affair: pony rides and a Mickey Mouse bouncy castle.

Muslim community leaders got together a few months ago and organized a gathering they’re calling Super Eid. It was to be a big festival on an annual Muslim holiday, with a little over 20,000 worshippers expected to attend.

No, they said, there would be no animal sacrifice at the stadium. No, this was not part of some secret Islamic agenda. U.S. Bank happened to be available, so they used it. There would be a carnival outside the stadium after prayer, complete with inflatables, ponies, and laughing children on a trampoline. Anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, was invited to join in.

“It’s like Christmas,” Imam Asad Zaman said.

That morning, over by the stadium entrance, a few non-participants holding supportive signs that read “Love Your Neighbor” and “All Are Welcome Here” took in the crowds of people going to and fro. Some wore sparkling head scarfs, some wore sweatshirts. Meghan Casey held a sign that read “Eid Mubarak” and accepted waves and hugs from passing worshippers.

Meghan Casey holds a sign welcoming Eid worshipers in an attempt to counteract fearful or suspicious social media posts about the event.

Meghan Casey holds a sign welcoming Eid worshipers in an attempt to counteract fearful or suspicious social media posts about the event. Hannah Jones

“I’ve never been given so many hugs in all my life,” she says. She’d rounded up a posse and stationed herself at the stadium entrance because some of her Muslim neighbors had been concerned about the rhetoric they’d seen online -- dire warnings about creeping Sharia Law, terrorism, animal sacrifice, and cryptic references to “taxpayer dollars.”

So far, she hadn’t seen anyone actually making a fuss, except for three people meandering around and filming random families as they walked by. Casey says she overheard one of them mutter that they were “really scared.”

“All I can say is that’s going to be a really boring video,” she says.

Eid al-Adha is the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice. It comes once a year, and it commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for the benefit of God. (Sound familiar, non-Muslims?)  Observers usually celebrate by going to prayer in varying levels of fancy attire, getting together with family, eating a lot of good food, and generally trying to wrangle kids to the next activity of the day. (How about that part? Ring any bells?) The only difference this year is that the Twin Cities’ various Islamic communities are doing it at the stadium as one big family.

“Dude, what the hell?” a teenage girl in a head scarf said as she and a friend crossed the busy street to the stadium. Chains of families were routinely weaving through impatient cars humming near the crosswalk, with the stadium towering overhead.

Prayer took place on the field in shifts, to accommodate the 23,000 or so worshippers. The biggest disturbance was a bit of a foot traffic jam between sessions.

Thousands of Muslims joined in prayer at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Thousands of Muslims joined in prayer at U.S. Bank Stadium. Hannah Jones

The stadium, usually raucous with football fans or concert-goers, was hushed during the ceremony. Besides the occasional child crying and the lilting tones of the prayer, the only sound was the rush of fabric as hundreds of worshippers bowed to the floor, moving as one. Observers in stadium seats leaned forward to approximate the gesture.

Murwo Mohamed, a resident of St. Paul for some 15 years, took it all in from her place on the field. This was her first time  being inside the stadium. It feels nice, she says. Peaceful.

Mohamed admits she’d been scared when she woke up that day. She’d heard there would be protesters, and she worried someone might try something. She was so relieved to find a happy, smiling crowd. The only demonstrators she’d seen had been holding supportive signs.

She kind of wishes some of those internet commenters could be there to see them.

“Islam stands for love, not hate,” she says. “I hope they give us a chance to understand who we are and where we come from.”