WASHINGTON - Bringing people of diverse backgrounds and national origins together, American Muslims are planning a series of events during the holy fasting month of Ramadan to build bridges with the larger community and correct misconceptions about their faith.
"The Council on American Islamic Relations sends out information relating to Ramadan to our non-Muslim constituency and friends as well as we organize programs in which we speak about Ramadan, CAIR executive director Nihad Awad told Voice Of America.Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, started in North America on Tuesday, July 9.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Around the globe, Muslims observe Ramadan with a set of traditional rituals including family gathering at iftar, religious lessons, special evening prayer and helping the poor.
For Muslim groups, Ramadan is an occasion to educate the American public about the religious observance and the Islamic faith in general.
The educational events organized by CAIR include holding open houses at local mosques and Islamic centers, public lectures on Ramadan, interfaith Iftars and TV ads reminding all Americans that Muslims are an integral part of US society.
For example, the Columbus chapter of CAIR plans to play host to about 250 people at its interfaith iftar on July 19, according to spokeswoman Hannah Tyler.
This is the 16th year the group has sponsored the event.
"Columbus, in general, just seems to be tolerant, she told Columbia Dipatch.
It seems to be a good place to live for any type of other' or minority.
Special Ramadan events were also planned at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin, where young people were collecting food for the Hilliard Food Pantry as part of a Ramadan project.
One thing that we often discuss is that we as human beings, we are very similar in a lot of ways, said Imran Malik, a center board member.
Our differences are very few, but our similarities are multitude.
American Muslims have also arranged special programs to bring Muslims of all origins and backgrounds closer.
"We try to make people feel like they are in any Muslim country and Muslim community, Imam Abdulla Khouj, president of the Islamic Center in Washington DC, told Voice of America.
We offer the meal to break their fast. We have more than 600 people, males and females, their children, and families. They break their fast and pray with us.
After the Iftar meal, Muslim families perform the Tarawih (nightly) prayers.
"Ramadan nightly prayer is an expression of devotion and seeking forgiveness. Each night we finish reciting one chapter of the holy Qur'an, Ali Gamay, a Muslim American businessman, said.
By the end of the holy month of Ramadan, we have completed the, 30 chapters of the holy book."
Moreover, special programs for American Muslims also are held in Dearborn, Michigan.
"For the English-speaking part of our congregation, we will have a special program because we believe they will be the ambassadors of Islam to non-Muslims, therefore there will be a very specialized program designed for the youth to expand their knowledge about Islam," said Imam Hassan Qazwini, the leader of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.
During Ramadan, the young people here - like their parents - help the poor, whether Muslim or not.
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur'an and good deeds.
In Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.