In US, Ramadan Gets an American Twist ; Muslims Celebrate the Holy Month with Interfaith Iftars, Blogs, and Fasts Even during Competition

By Omar Sacirbey Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 6, 2006 | Go to article overview

In US, Ramadan Gets an American Twist ; Muslims Celebrate the Holy Month with Interfaith Iftars, Blogs, and Fasts Even during Competition


Omar Sacirbey Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Aaliyah Turner used to light up the scoreboards for the Emmanuel College women's basketball team - even while observing the Islamic month of Ramadan. She would go all day without food and water until half time, when the sun set. So during this year's observance, playing a pickup game of basketball with a youth team organized through her mosque seemed to be no big deal.

"If I weren't fasting, I'd feel like I'd probably miss more shots because I'm out of sync," Ms. Turner says.

Muslims in the United States face special challenges in celebrating their holy month, which this year began Sept. 23 and ends Oct. 22. While Muslims in the Islamic world revive the daily rhythms of Ramadan - streets empty at sunset, families congregating for Ramadan dinners, or iftars, and later heading to the markets to drink tea until the wee hours of the morning, comfortable in the knowledge that they can sleep late because others will, too - Muslim- Americans have to adjust Ramadan to the beat of American life.

In the process, they're creating Ramadan traditions with a distinct American flavor - whether it's fasting in the heat of competition, eating takeout for iftar, or breaking fast with Christians and Jews.

"The Muslim experience in America is one of trying to conform to the way society around us runs," says Shahed Amanullah, who runs zabihah.com, an online guide of restaurants that conform to Islamic dietary restrictions. "In a Muslim country, everybody breaks their fast at the same time, so business conforms to that. But in America, we have to conform to a different schedule."

Omar Ahmad, for example, a technology worker in Silicon Valley, is often still at work at sunset. So he drives to the nearby Yaseen Center mosque in Belmont, where iftar is served, and gets his meal to go. He eats it at his office - a ritual performed by dozens of Muslims who work in Silicon Valley.

"That's when you can tell who all the bachelors are," he jokes, adding that mosque officials don't mind the eat-and-run.

Saira Sufi grew up in Topeka, Kan., accustomed to home-cooked iftars with family, but had little trouble adjusting to breaking her fast when she took a job on Capitol Hill, mainly because she could share the experience with Muslim colleagues. But since taking a job two years ago with the Civil War Preservation Trust, where she is the only Muslim, Ms. Sufi confesses to missing the sense of community. "I love breaking fast with other Muslims, but if you can't, you just accept it."

Rather than lamenting, however, Sufi has turned her solitude into an opportunity to contemplate God - another practice encouraged during Ramadan. …

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