Fact Check

Was the Empire State Building Lit Green on 9/11 for a Muslim Holiday?

Anti-Islam articles falsely reported that the Empire State Building would be illuminated green on September 11 in honor of the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha.

Published Sep 6, 2016

Image Via FLICKR
President Obama is planning on lighting the Empire State Building green to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr on 11 September 2016.

In September 2016, several online articles (including items from fringe web sites such as Mad World News and the anti-Islam web site Bare Naked Islam) reported that President Obama was planning on lighting New York City’s iconic Empire State Building (ESB) green on 11 September 2016 in honor of Eid-al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that celebrates the willingness of Ibrahim (i.e., Abraham) to sacrifice his son at God's command:

The Empire State Building is an iconic building in New York City often that lights up different colors throughout the year for various Holidays and special events. Many people don’t realize that is has been lit Islamic green in the past to celebrate their most sacred of Holy days. With 9/11 approaching Obama has plans to light it Green once again which should infuriate most Americans considering he sides with Muslims on everything.

Such an action (i.e., honoring a Muslim holiday on 9/11 in New York) would, of course, be considered highly insulting, given the events of 11 September 2001.

However, although the Empire State Building did shine green on the evening of 6 July 2016 in celebration of Eid al-Fitr (the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan), it will not be so illuminated on 11 September 2016. According to the ESB Tower Lights calendar, on that date the building will be lit "Red, white and blue in memory of September 11."

Moreover, since the Hijri (i.e., Islamic) calendar is lunar rather than solar, dates of major Islamic festivals are determined by lunar sightings. Although the start of Eid-al-Adha was originally expected to fall on 11 September in 2016, a number of prominent Muslim organizations have since declared that the festival will actually begin on 12 September this year:

For Muslims, Eid al-Adha commemorates the day when prophet Abraham was going to sacrifice his son but was instructed by God to offer an animal instead. Eid al-Adha in Arabic literally means "festival of the sacrifice".

Eid al-Adha 2016 was expected to begin on Sunday, September 11. But on Friday September 2, the supreme court in Saudi Arabia announced that the Muslim festival of Eid will be on Monday, September 12.

The actual dates of Eid are confirmed based on moon sighting. If a new moon was sighted on September 1, then the first day of Eid al-Adha would have been on September 11. But since the moon was not visible, the festival will be celebrated on Monday, September 12.

The Empire State Building is lit in various colors throughout the year to mark the occasion of various holidays and special events. For instance, it has shone blue and white for Chanukah, red and green for Christmas, and pastel colors for Easter. The Empire State Building has been illuminated green for Eid al-Fitr since at least 2007.

It should be noted that the Empire State Building is privately owned, and its lighting schedule is therefore not set by President Obama.


Fox News.   "Empire State Building Goes Green for Muslim Holiday."     13 October 2007.

Yahoo News.   "New York's Empire State Building Glows Green for Eid."     17 July 2015.

Khaleeli, Homa.   "When Is Eid-al-Adha This Year?"     The Guardian.   5 September 2016.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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