Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- For Ashley Mountasir, this is the first Ramadan that she will keep the fast. Converting from Catholicism, she embraced Islam just three months ago and at the same time celebrated her marriage to Taha Mountasir.
This is Ashley’s story as published by The Press Enterprise, which is issued in San Bernardino, California. Ashley and Taha met two years ago. She told the paper that she didn’t realize that Taha was a Muslim until she saw that he was fasting when she first met him. She explained that before Ramadan, she began to pray at the nearby Islamic Center in Temecula.
At the same center, on the second day of Ramadan, two American Christians met the Center’s Imam, Mohammed Harmoush, and told him that they wanted to convert to Islam. The Imam spoke to the two men for a while about Islam and then asked them to recite the Shahada, the Islamic creed. One of the men, Alex Ruval, 27 years old, served in the American forces in Iraq and said that hearing the call to prayer five times a day gave him a “warm feeling.”
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the local Tulsa World newspaper published a report on Ramadan entitled ‘11 Things You Need to Know About Ramadan,’ in which Sheryl Siddiqui, from the Islamic Society in Tulsa, explained the essence of the month of fasting.
On the first day of Ramadan, in Powell, Ohio, Andre Carson, a Muslim member of US Congress spoke at an Iftar gathering in Indianapolis, Indiana. He encouraged Muslims to take part in the elections. “This is a new day in America. This is a day to be proud as Americans and Muslims,” said Carson, who is the second Muslim to serve in US Congress after Keith Ellison.
Carson visited Ohio to attend the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the headquarters of which are based in Plainfield, Indiana. The Indianapolis Star newspaper stated that those attending the conference had decided not to pledge their support for the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, “for fear it could do him harm,” especially that Obama is trying to convince Americans that he is not a Muslim as suspicions about his religious affiliation may hinder his chance of winning the presidential elections.
The first day of Ramadan coincided with the release of Dr Sami al Arian, the Palestinian university professor who was detained for five years in Florida on numerous terrorism charges. However, al Arian will be kept under house arrest and monitored by the police as he awaits the trial that will decide his fate. The director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, in Washington D.C stated, “After all these difficult years, al Arian’s family will be able to fast the month of Ramadan with him.”
With the beginning of Ramadan, in Euston, Texas, Islam Mossaad explained the significance of the fasting month and the other pillars of Islam for the readers of The Statesman as he stood in front of the city’s biggest mosque. He explained how he made the decision to give up a career in engineering, which he studied, to become an Imam. He described how he can be an Imam and support the Longhorns at the same time as some people believe that Islam and sports are incompatible.
Abdul Aziz Eddebbarh, a migrant from Morocco, and an expert in hydrology, spoke to Santa Fe New Mexican Newspaper and gave his explanation of the Islamic religion for Americans on the occasion of Ramadan as he stood in front of Taha Mosque in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “Islam is a way for human beings to elevate their spirituality and in the process they are required to be peaceful, good and caring citizens, good neighbors, good everything. This is Islam.”
In Abilene, Texas, Haywood Talib, the head of a small mosque told Abilene Reporter News, “Fasting is about having discipline to follow God’s guidance…and to fight off temptations.”
The Voice of America [VOA] television channel aired a report on fasting Muslims in America in which Dr Abdullah Khouj, the director of the Islamic Center in Washington D.C said, “The diversity of Muslims in the United States gives Ramadan in America a special flavor.” In reference to the flags of Islamic countries displayed outside the Islamic Center, Khouj added, “[These flags represent] people from all over the world sitting at one table on the floor, who join together to break the fast, to talk and to feel that they have accomplished something that day, which is fasting for God.”
Khouj told VOA that the White House sends greetings for Ramadan and for other religious festivals and this, according to Khouj, has helped Americans to understand Islam and that it is a religion of tolerance.
During Ramadan, Muslims, from different parts of the world, also gather at each others’ homes. The student newspaper of the University of Massachusetts pictured Abidat Adnan from Iran, Naz Ahmed from Pakistan, Elisaveta Losovaya from Russia, Abideh Mohammed from Iran, Parveeen Nurmand from Pakistan and Naveen Ibrahim from Egypt. The paper took a picture of these six strangers tied together by Islam as they gathered around the Iftar table, which comprised of different foods from their homelands, at Abidat Adnan’s residence in Amherst.