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For week ended December 12, 1999 Posted 18 Dec 1999

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LDS Member Helps Muslims Find Ramadan Site (Muslims Seek Ramadan Site)

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Member Helps Muslims Find Ramadan Site (Muslims Seek Ramadan Site)
Los Angeles Times 12Dec99 D2
By William Lobdell: Times Staff Writer

ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA -- The Islamic holy month of Ramadan has started, and Orange County Muslim leaders are still trying to find a site large enough for the thousands of muslims who will gather January 8th to pray on Eid al-Fitr, one of the holiest days of the Muslim year.

For the second time in three years, LDS Church member Tom Thorkelson, an ex-Marine, has stepped in to assist Muslims. "As soon as they found themselves in trouble, they called me," said Thorkelson, who serves as president of the Orange County chapter of the interfaith group, the National Conference for Community and Justice. "Because I was able to do it before for them, they thought I could do it again."

Thorkelson managed to persuade the Marine Corps to help in 1998, when Muslims used one of the blimp hangars at Tustin Marine Corps air station. But federal rules that keep bases closed to most public use make repeating this use difficult. U.S. Representatives Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) and Ron Packard (R-Oceanside) have been asked to help get around the rules to open one of the two Marine bases in Orange County. "There ought to be a way to do this," said Cox.

The problem is compounded because predicting when Ramadan starts and ends. Ramadan is set only after the new moon is spotted, placing Eid al-Fitr on one of two different days. As many as 15,000 of the 150,000 Muslims in Orange County are expected to attend Eid al-Fitr this year. To cover both days in a commercial facility like the Anaheim Convention Center, where the event was held last year, would require reserving the building for both days, effectively doubling the expense.

Thorkelson assisted in an attempt to use Los Alamitos Army Forces Reserve Center, but the attempt failed because of scheduling conflicts and the fact that its hangars are filled with aircraft. He still thinks that the closed Tustin or El Toro Marine bases would work, but Muslims will need congressional help to gain access. Base official Lt. Col. Ed Gilhooley, who's in charge of both Tustin and El Toro, says "The base is closed. The taxpayers aren't paying for an open base."

Thorkelson is also looking at prices to rent oversized tents that could be placed in Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley, California or in parking lots like those at Edison Field or Arrowhead Pond.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information