Invited by our Muslim neighbor–who was delighted we came– we broke the Ramadan fast with the Al Hedaya Islamic Center in Newtown last Saturday night. There was an educational program from 7pm until sundown, followed by a meal that broke their fast. I hadn’t intended to blog about it, but the whole thing was so lovely, I decided to share this special evening with you.
The program included prayers, children singing songs (including America the Beautiful), reflections on what Islam has meant to them, and some short speeches.
I learned that Ramadan coincides with the month the Koran was “given to them,” and that they fast from dawn to dusk without even any water. The sick, the traveling, children, and nursing mothers are exempted from this, but most say they enjoy it as a time of cleansing and celebration. Several of the speeches were given by women, two of which I spoke to at length afterwards.
They were terrific women and I hope to be in touch with them again in the future. All felt very respected and embraced by a heathy community. They were free to express themselves and own their own power. Indeed, not only was the evening planned by them, they started the whole Islamic Center itself. Not all grew up as Muslims, and the new ones encouraged the others to reach out and share what they have, and to not be defensive or just stick to themselves.
One speaker talked about Shariah Law, and how the majority of Muslims repudiate those on both ends of the extreme. They want to be part of the fabric of America and not be associated with such things. This is Newtown, after all, which has seen such atrocities in the past, but whose slogan has become: Love Wins. We know better than most that pulling together and not leaving anyone out matters. There is only one God anyway, after all is said and done.
Our Congressman, Elizabeth Esty, was there and spoke eloquently about unity in this multifaceted nation. I was able to meet her afterwards (in the photo above in the middle, back) and thank her for her wonderful role in advocating strongly for Christian Science accommodations in the health care laws over the years.
I also made some good interfaith clergy contacts, saw some homeschooling friends I hadn’t seen in quite some time, met climate change activists that our group (RACE: Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment) can help, and ate homemade baklava.
The whole event was a great way to open up to the community, build relationships, and remove misinformation and stereotypes. What a good example for the rest of us!