The largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States has urged Muslim communities nationwide to reach out to their neighbors of all beliefs and backgrounds by encouraging them to organize an interfaith "iftar," or fast-breaking meal, during the upcoming month-long fast of Ramadan.
Ramadan is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset. It is estimated to begin July 9 this year.
To assist local Muslim community leaders, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has produced a "Sharing Ramadan Resource Guide 2013" that offers step-by-step advice on hosting an interfaith iftar, and is a availibel for download at: http://www.cair.com/images/pdf/Sharing-Ramadan-2013.pdf
The resource guide includes instructions on forming a "Sharing Ramadan" committee, a sample media advisory for an iftar, advice on reaching out to local media, an advertisement for the event, text for a "Welcome to Our Ramadan Fast-Breaking" brochure, frequently-asked questions about Ramadan, and a sample event program and newspaper advertisement.
The guidebook even gives advice on how to convince uninterested members of the Muslim community that the effort is worthwhile:
If your community questions why such an event is necessary, you might remind them of the importance of building a positive image of the mosque, school or community center in the surrounding area. Let them know that experience of other communities has shown that a positive neighborhood image offers many benefits."The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said Ramadan 'is the month of sharing with others,'" said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, quoting from Sunan al-Tirmidhi (614). "All our research has shown that prejudice and stereotyping decrease when people of other faiths know more about Islam and interact with ordinary Muslims."
Hosting an open house is a good way to show your neighbors what your community believes and represents and to give them an opportunity to ask any questions they have. A little knowledge about Islam or a look inside a mosque can help remove any curiosity or discomfort people might have about a mosque or Muslim center.
Nihad Awad, CAIR's National Executive Director said: "Individual and community outreach and interaction are key to reversing the current growth in anti-Muslim sentiment in our society."
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
"CAIR Offers Guide to Help Muslims Share Ramadan with Neighbors" The Wall Street Journal June 28, 2013
"Fast-breaking 'iftars' designed to enhance interfaith understanding" The Business Journals June 28, 2013
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today