Ramadan was always a special time for me. The air felt fresher, like something was present in the wind. But it was different in our household, with my father from Syria and my mother from Mexico, I often struggled with identity. For some reason when Ramadan came around, those struggles felt minute, maybe it was the fasting in Texas weather, or maybe it was the fact that I knew that all around the world Muslims were fasting together. Perhaps what I felt was present in the wind was the feeling of community. Something that I truly longed for; I didn’t know any Muslim children at school, and didn’t attend the mosque often with my father, since my mother was Catholic; Friday prayers were held during school time anyways. My father’s side of the family were mostly in Syria, some in other parts of the Middle East. We usually saw my mother’s side of the family on Christmas or Easter, and I was unable to communicate meaningfully with my grandparents on either side since they did not speak English. Therefore I always felt something missing when it came to family, and Ramadan was there offering me peace of mind. As I got older, the appreciation I had for Ramadan increased, and felt a special feeling whenever it came around. One year an Iranian serial on the life of Mary aired on an Arabic satellite channel. We all watched it together as a family, I finally felt like something truly united us. The serial began to air yearly and became a tradition to watch together. Although I fasted, I did not observe hijab, as I was afraid of the backlash I would receive. Islamophobia was rampant, 9/11 occurred when I was in Junior high, and I had already experienced my fair share of ridicule, despite not wearing hijab.
Islamophobia now is still widespread, especially with groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, people often misunderstand what Islam teaches, and believe it is only what is shown in news cycles. In fact it’s become so rampant, that this Ramadan we lost a 17 year old girl. While police have determined that the attack was an act of “road rage,” many people feel there was an ulterior motive, a hateful motive. Muslims came together throughout the states and held vigils for Nabra Hassanen. Ramadan, a time for fasting, prayer and charity, a time for community. It was determined that her killer was a Latino, and Latinx Muslims came together on twitter voicing their concerns on the stereotypes that can be made by both sides of the community, with the hashtag #LatinxRamadan. Myself being half Latina, mentioned how when meeting other Latina women, many are confused and recognize me as a Middle Easterner, or a foreigner, due to my observation of hijab. Other Latinx Muslims discussed how sometimes there can be racism within the Muslim community towards Latinx people. For me, seeing all the other Latinx Muslims on Twitter provided me with a sense of hope and belonging, although we came together after a tragic event. This shows how there can be various levels of a community, and in this millennial age, social media plays a significant role in communal support.
Although community plays a big role in the month of Ramadan, there is a greater importance for contemplation in solitude. After moving to a different city, much larger than my hometown, I have found making new friends to be a bit difficult. But I feel it is not something that should be mourned over. Instead, I feel that there are times when we are meant to be alone and times when we need community. Contemplation in solitude helps a person become aware of their faults, their goals, and helps them prepare plans to change.
There is a hadith about the literal meaning of Ramadan, which is the burning; explained to be the burning of sins. It is suggested that we can melt away our faults, with true plans of action. We can melt away the hate with love.
Amira’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 info@ParliamentOfReligions.org, or tag us at #RamadanPoWR to share your own story.
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