We certainly live in interesting times. Our country, and all of the western world, is feeling a surge of anxiety that has fueled fear and hatred of those who are different. We’ve seen an increase in hate crimes. Anti-black, anti-LGBT, and more often, anti-Muslim attacks are on the rise.
The past few weeks have seen terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, England carried out by angry young Muslim men.
In response, we saw a series of “Anti Sharia Law” protests led by an anti-Muslim hate group taking place all around the country.
And all of this is taking place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. For this lunar month, followers of Islam fast from dawn to sunset, taking no water or food for up to 18 hours. The month encourages people to be introspective, to count their blessings, to appreciate the gifts that God gives, including food and drink. It encourages the faithful to think about community and family and to consider how loving other humans encourages people to love God.
So how would western Muslims react to the terror attacks and to the terrible backlash against them? Some western Muslims are naturalized citizens, some were born here, while others are recent immigrants. During the holy Ramadan days, how would they react to the rise in hate against them?
A group of Muslims in London created a program called Open Iftar, named for the evening meal which breaks the fast during Ramadan. The program was originally started in 2011 to support Muslim students who were far from home. They were encouraged to gather to break the fast with other Muslims.
Today there are Open Iftar meals celebrated around the world, in countries from Turkey, to Canada to the U.S. Everyone is welcome to attend, with no thought to religion, ethnicity or race. Everyone sits down together and everyone shares the food, most of which is donated by the Muslim community. Sometimes there are speakers, often there are prayers.
But there is always food, always fellowship and always a sense of community and sharing.
As we watch the fear and distrust of our Muslim neighbors rise around us, we must find appropriate ways to respond. Passing on news about Open Iftar, or attending a meal ourselves, seems like a very good idea.
Featured image by Wikimedia Commons