American Muslims Celebrate Ramadan

December 2, 2000

Source: The Buffalo News

On December 2, 2000, The Buffalo News reported that "the first of this winter's major religious holidays got under way across the country this week with the start of Ramadan, as diverse Muslim communities began celebrating their holy month of fasting...The month begins with the sighting of the new moon, so although most Muslims began fasting Monday, others started Tuesday. There are an estimated 6 million Muslims in the United States. While many Muslims in the Middle East traditionally break the fast by sharing a special holiday meal with extended families at home, many faithful in the United States are just as likely to share their 'iftar,' or breakfast, in restaurants or in mosques, which often serve as community centers. At Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in Harlem, where Malcolm X once preached, congregants gathered at sunset Tuesday to break their fast with dates and water or apple juice, then prayed together...Children can begin participating in the fast at whatever age they feel ready. Many begin around the age of 9. Like Christmas, Ramadan is traditionally a time of charity, and mosque members donated sugar and canned foods to be given to area shelters...With Muslims eating their "breakfast" at sundown and having their morning meal before sunrise and then returning to sleep, daily schedules are challenged as people spend more time awake at night. Some Muslim-run businesses and schools adjust their hours accordingly. At Al-Iman School, an Islam-oriented school in Jamaica, Queens, classes end early -- at 2 p.m. -- during Ramadan. In keeping with tradition, the 280 students are expected to try to read the Quran from beginning to end over the lunar month, said school administrator Noshaba Riaz. The Philadelphia School District published guidelines to help teachers and administrators understand Islam, and at one school, students are invited to use a classroom as a lunchtime retreat from the school cafeteria. School officials estimate that some high schools in the district have more than 20 percent Muslim enrollment...The fast is performed to teach discipline, self-restraint and generosity. Fasting, along with the declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity and a pilgrimage to Mecca, if possible, is one of the 'five pillars' of Islam. Eid El-Fitr, or the 'feast of fast-breaking,' marks the end of Ramadan."