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Muslim Americans Mark Start of Ramadan

2018-05-16

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  • Ramadan is beginning for the world’s Muslims.
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  • The month-long observance is a time to fast, to think and to spend time with friends and family.
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  • In the United States, people of different national origins gather at Islamic centers for religious services and to celebrate their beliefs.
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  • Muslim Americans observe Ramadan in much the same way as Muslims in other countries do.
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  • There are traditions to be followed.
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  • Families buy meat prepared according to Muslim law.
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  • The meat is served after sunset, when the daily fast ends.
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  • Fasting requires Muslims to avoid eating, drinking and sexual activity during daylight hours.
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  • Families also pray together and help the poor.
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  • Shaker Elsayed is the religious leader of the Dar al-Hijra Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia.
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  • The center serves Muslims of 42 different nationalities.
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  • He said, “Ramadan becomes a very helpful opportunity to bring people together, those who come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and linguistic backgrounds.”
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  • He added, “We all speak English so we use English as a unifying language, and at the same time, we do all the activities to accommodate everybody, especially in Ramadan.”
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  • Shaker said the center provides Muslims free meals to break their fast. It also organizes nightly prayers during Ramadan.
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  • During the day, Muslim Americans are fasting, but their co-workers and friends are not.
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  • For Ibrahim Radi, an Egyptian-American, that is not a problem.
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  • “I have to fast because it is my religious duty,” he said, so it does not concern him too much.
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  • His wife, Nadia, told VOA she misses big family gatherings in Morocco.
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  • “There is a big difference; here you do not have extended families, so instead of having 10 people around the table, there is only the two of us,” she said.
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  • Some Muslim Americans say their work day seems longer because they have to carry out their religious duties during Ramadan.
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  • Amina Tanboush of Senegal describes some of those duties.
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  • “Everyone will cook some food and bring it, and we all eat together and pray together and we talk about [the] Muslim religion, teach each other, sometimes we go to pray together around lunch time,” she said.
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  • For many Muslim American groups, Ramadan also is a time to tell the American public about their religious observances and the Islamic faith, in general.
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  • Among the activities are “open houses” at Islamic centers and local mosques.
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  • Other activities include public talks during Ramadan and Iftar dinners with non-Muslims.
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  • At this time of year, some television stations broadcast advertisements that bring attention to Muslims as an important part of United States society.
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  • Shaker Elsayed said his Islamic center invites Christians and Jewish Americans to Iftar dinner every Wednesday.
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  • The dinners are an effort to increase contacts between religious groups.
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  • Discussion about religion is popular during Ramadan.
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  • Keith Ellison is the first Muslim American to be elected to the U.S. Congress.
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  • He says these dialogues help build understanding between religious groups.
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  • “It's a critically important dialogue for us to have; all people of all colors, all cultures and faiths need to come together to talk about points of difference so we can discover how are we unified.”
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  • Since the early 1990s, U.S. presidents have given Ramadan greetings to the more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.
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  • Shaker said he believes the presidential greetings have helped Americans know more about Ramadan and Muslim Americans.
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  • I’m Mario Ritter.
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