News Column

Muslims Gather for End of Ramadan

August 9, 2013

This year's Ramadan, the month of fasting observed by Muslims, was different for James River High School junior Hala Al-Tinawi than those she recalls from her childhood.

Not only did her grandparents fly in from Syria for the holy month, she said she was able to connect the Quran teachings to her everyday life.

"Now I reflect on what we're saying, who we're talking to and how we're saying it," said Al-Tinawi, 15.

She also decided to donate money, a common practice during Ramadan, to the construction of a mosque in Henrico County.

Her family and about 1,500 Muslims from across Virginia gathered at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on Thursday morning to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The worldwide ceremony, which includes prayer, teaching and eating with family and friends, marks the end of fasting from food and drink from sunrise to sunset that started July 9 this year.

Virginia Muslims from Sudan to Pakistan wore traditional garments to the ceremony and took pictures with family and friends before and after prayer. Don Mark, who represented Mayor Dwight C. Jones' multicultural outreach, told those in attendance that all economic, cultural and faith groups should have access to resources in Richmond.

The mayor "is wide open to all communities," Mark said. "Together, we can build the best Richmond."

Ammar Amonette, imam of the Richmond-based Islamic Center of Virginia, encouraged the group to read the Quran so they would not be led astray by extremist ideas.

"We should not be a community of illiteracy about their religion. ... People are led into violence and confusion because they don't read," Amonette said. "Read, hear, learn for yourself."

The month of fasting also is a chance for families and individuals to cleanse their body, mind and spirit, said Luqman Jaaber, Virginia Union University men's basketball coach.

Jaaber wanted to involve his five children more in Ramadan nightly prayers and community service this year, he said. The family passed out sandwiches to homeless Richmonders and got up for the 3:30 a.m. prayer each day during Ramadan.

Faye Malik, a Richmond native who converted to Islam from Christianity 30 years ago, said Ramadan is the time of year when families rush to the masjid, or place of worship, after work for food and time together.

"We are fasting for the sake of our Lord," she said. "It's the only thing we can do for him. God doesn't need us."

Imad Damaj, president of the Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs, said Thursday's gathering showcased the diversity of Muslims in Virginia from Americans to North Africans, South Asians and Arabs. It also represented a shift in Virginia demographics, he said.

"This is the new Virginia, people from different backgrounds," Damaj said. "This is now an American celebration."

For VCU senior Sudan Abdur-Rahman, Ramadan is a chance to reflect and try to start fresh.

"I always walk away changed," he said.

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Source: Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA) 2013

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