“Everyday Embellishments” is a blog written by Cecelia Barrow, Cultural Crossroad volunteer and student of the world. Her mission is “to meet the people of our global community and give voice to those not being heard.” From time to time, she shares her observations on this Cultural Crossroads blog; this piece is about attending an iftar, a dinner held after sunset during Ramadan to break the day’s fast:
Ramadan marks a month of fasting for Muslims where they abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours every year. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, and greatly important to the faith. The dates for Ramadan follow the lunar calendar, so the month of Ramadan falls on a different season each year. When Ramadan is held in winter months, the days are short so the fasting is a bit easier. But when Ramadan takes place in June, you better get used to being hungry and thirsty.
The other night my family and I were invited to a community Iftar dinner, which is the meal that is held after dark each night during Ramadan. The dinner was hosted by the Crescent Peace Society in Kansas City, a group that was established in 1996 to enhance community understanding of Muslim cultures.
We arrived a bit late, but were greeted by Muslims of all ages, genders and backgrounds who were hosting the event. They shook our hands, and welcomed us in. Inside the conference room hundreds of people from all different backgrounds and religions sat around tables together. There was a speaker at the front of the room who was explaining the basic components of Ramadan and fasting.
At one point, the speaker’s wife yelled from the back of the room something along the lines of, “let’s eat already!” and everyone laughed. It was almost time for fast breaking to begin, and most people in the room were anxiously watching the clock. At 8:45 a prayer was said in Arabic, and the speaker at the front of the room declared fast was broken. Large, juicy dates were passed around the table for each person to each in celebration of the fast breaking, and then the practicing Muslims in the room went to a back room to pray while everyone else was invited to get in line for dinner.
Who said Ramadan dinner needs to be Middle Eastern hummus and falafel? We had Indian naan, chutney, paneer, curry, pakora and biryani topped off with chai tea and mango lassi.
With the rise in Islamaphobia in the United States, the Crescent Peace Society and other Islamic groups and mosques in the country have been opening their doors more and more. In the face of a country that is actively discriminating against them, Muslims in America have turned the other cheek and have chosen to be inviting instead of angry.
The more we understand another person, or another culture, the less we can be scared of them, or hate. If you are invited to attend a mosque or a Muslim event, I encourage you to attend. Not only to show solidarity with the Islamic community in America and the world, but also to expand your horizons. It was humbling to be fed a free dinner. It was humbling to be invited to eat first, while the Muslims in the room had not had anything to eat for the past 14 hours. It was beautiful to feel invited and accepted someplace. Each time I interact with a community different from the culture I grew up in, I am reminded how similar we all are as humans. And what a broad spectrum we represent of the puzzle pieces of humanity.
Photo Credit: Crescent Peace Society