Being asked as a Zoroastrian youth to write a reflection about the Muslim holiday of Ramadan is something I am sure my ancestors could have never dreamed of. Quite honestly, I have seen anti-Muslim bigotry present within my own community that dates back hundreds years. We have a collective trauma and history that is honestly is rarely discussed in a productive way. Acknowledging this is often surprising to people, as I am an Iranian American. Aren’t we all the same?
I went to an Iranian American conference recently, and a speaker was telling the crowd how we cannot try to distance ourselves from Islam, even though the faith is being attacked right now. He told the room that “bigotry is not nuanced,” and to not expect this distance to do anything but hurt our Muslim brothers and sisters. He convinced us that the only way to fight this bigotry is to accept that we must fight side by side, as we are ultimately struggling for the same liberation, safety, and freedom.
During the reflective and sacred month of Ramadan, my thoughts and prayers were with the Muslim community. Celebrating Ramadan publicly has become a political statement and even a risk. I have never had to fear such persecution in my life. I have never had to defend the God I love to others. My Muslim peers and coworkers experience a different struggle than I do, thus their space in this conversation is more important.
Ramadan could not have come at a better time. As values of community and solidarity are reflected upon within the Muslim community, it is a call to members of the non-Muslim community to also stand in solidarity and connect. Our struggle is no longer individual. It is no longer separate. In fact, it never was. We are at a place where we must deliberately choose a path of collective, intersectional, interfaith healing and resistance.
I encourage all members of my Zoroastrian community to meet other communities halfway in light of this Ramadan season. This will no doubt be difficult. We have been taught all our lives to self segregate. We were never conditioned to work in diverse coalitions together. In fact, being divided is the status quo. This is what makes interfaith, and love for the Muslim community radical.
I have however, seen those boundaries broken. I have watched as the status quo of oppressive bigotry began crumbling apart. Being a part of this series and continuing to participate in integrative interfaith work is such an example for me and my community. I am proud of my love and respect of Ramadan and the beautiful community that celebrates it. I hope conversations and projects like this continue to challenge oppressive structures and celebrate spiritual diversity.
Shayda's reflection comes to the Parliament of the World's Religions as part of the 2017 Interfaith Ramadan series, empowering interfaith allies, Muslim and those of other spiritual and religious backgrounds from around the world, to share their stories of service, community and gratitude during the month of Ramadan. Please contact the Parliament at [email protected], or tag us at #RamadanPoWR to share your own story.