Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Inspiring Ramadan Iftar at State Capitol Sparks Hope, Renewal, Reflection

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Inspiring Ramadan Iftar at State Capitol Sparks Hope, Renewal, Reflection

Article excerpt

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, California Chapter (CAIR-CA) celebrated the holy month of Ramadan with its annual iftar-the meal after sunset that concludes Muslims' daylong fast-co-hosted by California state senator Richard Pan, M.D., and Assembly members Kevin McCarty, Jim Cooper and Ken Cooley, at the Sacramento state capitol on July 1.

"The support of our elected officials sends a message to the nearly one million Muslims in California that they are part of the great fabric of our state and that their achievements are recognized," said CAIR Sacramento Valley executive director Basim Elkarra.

The large group representing various faiths and occupations listened raptly as Zaytuna College co-founder Dr. Hatem Bazian shared his thoughts on Ramadan and explained the Qur'an's teachings on fasting and protecting the environment.

"Fasting is about restraining ourselves, and one verse in the Qur'an actually calls on those who believe in God to tread lightly upon the Earth, or, in our modern language, to have a light carbon footprint," the professor said. "Last week there was a story that said that in America we waste about $165 billion worth of food that we throw out in the garbage. Another story said that we actually only need about $50 billion to address world hunger. So, literally, with that which we don't consume we could solve world hunger three times over."

Bazian went on to explain that a part of Ramadan is "gaining God-consciousness in relation to other human beings." He urged the audience to remember the tragic shootings in Charleston and the seven African-American churches that were recently burned. "We cannot celebrate Ramadan without thinking of the pain and suffering of others both in this country and around the world," he pointed out. "We hope that God-consciousness will make it possible to change our society for the better."

Greeted by audience applause for his military service, Marine StaffSgt. Jacob Harrer, a board member of Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs, spoke of his time in Afghanistan as a combat correspondent in 2012. While conducting operations with the Afghan National Security Forces, as well as police officers, he met with local residents. "When I met the people of Afghanistan, a few things that stood out to me were their kindness, faith and compassion," the young Marine recalled. "We were foreigners with weapons-intimidating in our body armor-and yet, no matter who we were, they would sit us down and we would drink tea together."

He noted poignantly that, while he was "back in America with all the rights afforded Americans in our Constitution, Afghans still struggle for their own survival, prosperity and to be treated with dignity."

A longtime attendee at the Capitol iftar, state Controller Betty Yee, described Ramadan as "one of the most hopeful times of the year." One of several non-Muslims who joined in the daylong fast, Yee spoke passionately on her Ramadan experiences. "For many of us, it has become increasingly challenging to make sense of the brokenness that exists in our world today," she lamented. "I know that when I leave tonight I will feel strengthened by the community that was here. You have taught so many of us to be deep in reflection and emerge really understanding that our place in the world is about lending our hands to help heal our communities and our world."

Former Republican Rep. Wally Herger, who represented California's 2nd congressional district for 26 years, extolled the religious freedom enjoyed in the United States. …

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