September 10th, 2007 04:53 EST
Muslims prepare for the holy month of Ramadan
As Muslims throughout the area prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, which begins Thursday, many are also making efforts to share their customs and beliefs with the non-Muslim community.
Community meals known as interfaith iftars have emerged as a Ramadan tradition in Northeast Ohio. The iftar, or fast-breaking, is the meal observant Muslims enjoy at sunset during Ramadan after a day of abstaining from food and drink.
The community iftars invite people from all faiths to share dinner and learn about Islam.
"Taking part in an iftar is an excellent chance for people of all faiths to get to know their Muslim neighbors, to move beyond stereotypes and toward understanding," said Isam Zaiem, president of the Cleveland chapter of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR will hold its annual Sharing Ramadan Community Iftar at 7 p.m. Saturday at Cleveland State University's Joseph Cole Center, 3100 Chester Ave.
Baby-sitting and children's games will be available. For reservations, call 216-830-2247. (MORE)
Ramadan and Eid have become American traditions since then- First Lady Hillary Clinton received Muslims on Eid in 1996. (Eid rhymes with deed and marks the end of Ramadan's fasting; this year Eid falls on Oct. 13.) White House iftaar dinners, which mark the breaking of the fast, have become an annual event. Mujahid said the council hosts annual interfaith iftaars, which this year will include Cardinal Francis George.
"During our interfaith work, we send and receive greetings on all holidays. The United Methodist Church even fasted last Ramadan for solidarity reasons," Mujahid said.
Mujahid offered some suggestions on the pending Muslim holidays:
*Include a message about the holidays in your company newsletter, calendar or on the notice board.
*Realize that most Muslims fast from dawn to dusk the entire month, so they might not be joining you for lunch as usual.
*Ask questions if you are intrigued and accept invitations for iftaar. Knowledge of each other's faith and traditions is the single most important block in building bridges and practicing tolerance.
*Visit a mosque. All mosques have open houses around sunset during Ramadan and welcome anyone who would like to come and perhaps share a meal.
*As with Ramadan, extend Eid greetings via a card or well wishes. Muslims might take the day off to celebrate with their families.
*Remember that alcohol and pork products are a "no" when it comes to gift-giving; most other gifts work well. (Kids get Eid gifts in the form of new clothes, toys or cash.)
Council on American-Islamic Relations
453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
Tel: 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726