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Muslim-Americans promote interfaith relations during Ramadan

2011 August 1

American Muslim soldiers celebrating the end of Ramadan at Fort Jackson last year (Fort Jackson Leader/Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the first day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, during which Muslims refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. This is intended to teach them about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God. It is also intended to make Muslims empathize with the plight of the less fortunate, those who might go hungry not for religious reasons but from lack of money to buy food.

Rabbi Gerald Serotta (right) with Imam Arafat at an interfaith iftar (

Since September 11, 2001, the Muslim-American community has become more concerned about reaching out to the broader community and countering some of the harmful stereotypes about Muslims.  The month of Ramadan often serves as an occasion for this outreach.  Local mosques have started opening their doors to non-Muslims and hosting interfaith iftars—fast-breaking meals Muslims eat at sundown—inviting civic and religious leaders to participate.

According to Zaher Saloul, the chairman of the Council of Islamic Associations of Greater Chicago, “the initial reaction [to September 11] was more openness and civic engagement with people of other religions and groups. I think we are moving in the right direction in spite of the fact that you have right now a more negative perception of Islam than at the time of 9/11.”

The Council of Islamic Associations of Greater Chicago, an umbrella group for 56 Islamic organizations in Chicago and the suburbs, has launched a campaign “Together for a Better America,” and is urging its members to have remembrance dinners during Ramadan honoring the victims and first responders of September 11.  The council is also encouraging Muslims to participate in municipal and township planning of September 11 commemorative events.  The campaign will culminate on September 10, with a gathering of religious, interfaith and civic leaders honoring the victims and first responders.

Readers who are interested in learning more can read the article in Chicago’s Daily Herald.

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