Lone Star Muslims: Transnational Lives and the South Asian Experience in Texas

By Ahmed Afzal | Go to book overview

5
The Pakistan Independence Day Festival
The Making of a “Houston Tradition”

The Pakistan Independence Day Festival is a high-profile annual event organized by the Pakistani American Organization1 in Houston, Texas. According to official estimates released by the organization, on August 11, 2001, between 5,000 and 7,000 men, women, and children in Houston attended the annual Festival, which celebrates the founding of Pakistan as a sovereign nation-state on August 14, 1947. Financed by membership dues, private donations, and corporate sponsorships, the Festival is a major source of revenue for the organization. Advertised as a “family event,” the Festival begins early in the evening and continues late into the night.

Independence Day is celebrated on August 14 in Pakistan. In Houston, the Festival takes place on the Saturday closest to August 14 to ensure the widest participation by Pakistani Americans. This flexibility is important because of the Festival’s emphasis on catering to its target audience, middle-class families, professionals, and students who might be at work or in school during the workweek. The Festival’s Muslim heritage is indexed through the flexible timing of the event with respect not only to Pakistan’s independence but also to the Islamic calendar. In 2010 and 2011, for example, the celebrations were deferred for several weeks because of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is marked by fasting, prayer, and worship. Unlike the solar calendar, the dates of the Islamic calendar change each year, moving backward by about eleven days each year depending on the sighting of the new moon. During the years when August 14 falls during Ramadan, the Festival is combined with the three-day-long post-Ramadan Eid celebrations.

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