American Muslims Celebrate Ramadan

November 25, 2000

Source: The Kansas City Star

On November 25, 2000, The Kansas City Star reported that "early next week Bahiyah Shakur will be rising before dawn and eating a light breakfast before beginning a day without food or water. She will repeat this every day for a month as part of the observance of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Because it follows the lunar calendar, the actual time and date of the start of Ramadan is governed by the sighting of the new moon. Before leaving for work Shakur also will start reading the Qur'an, which Muslims are supposed to complete in its entirety during the month...Shakur is African-American and has been a Muslim for 25 years. What she and other African-American Muslims emphasize is that they are no different from other orthodox Muslims and that their observance of Ramadan is no different...Shakur came into the faith in 1975, the year W. Deen Mohammed took over the Nation of Islam after the death of his father, Elijah Muhammad. The younger Mohammed abandoned his father's black separatist teachings and led his followers into the more orthodox Sunni Islam. The group, now called the Muslim American Society, is the nation's largest body of African-American Muslims, with membership estimates of up to 2.5 million. The more controversial Nation of Islam, which Louis Farrakhan resurrected in 1977, is much smaller, with 20,000 to 30,000 members. An estimated 3,000 African-American Muslims live in the Kansas City area. Although still separate, the two groups recently have made strides toward reconciliation. Mohammed and Farrakhan met in February, and since then the two groups have held joint events. Discipline in America...Increasingly the African-American community is making contact with other Muslim groups, especially during Ramadan...For example, several Muslim groups are planning to come together and host area Muslim Somalis to a breaking of the fast meal next week...While the practice of their faith is similar to that of other Muslims, African-Americans are keenly aware that they are black and Americans. And African-American Muslims do not have an anti-American spirit that was prevalent among some Muslim communities in the 1970s and '80s, Bilal Muhammed said. 'We have developed independent of other Muslims,' he said. 'We don't take our understanding of how the Islamic law should be applied in a non-Islamic country from anyone. We have grown to understand how this should be applied to our situation. We have not thought that culture is religion. We don't have to become Arabs to be Muslims. We are Americans, and we know we have sacrificed in this country, and we have more than earned our right to be top citizens.'"