CAIRO – Inspired by Ramadan message of solidarity and unity, Ohio Muslims are opening their hearts and doors to their non-Muslim neighbors to share Iftar and help dispel misconceptions about Islam in the United States."Muslims strive throughout the month to be connected to the community and you are our community," Shehadeh Abdelkarim, president of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, said while welcoming people to the Parma mosque, the Plain Dealer newspaper reported.
The Iftar, held on Sunday, August 7, was served at the Parma mosque after sunset and brought together members of Cleveland Muslim community and hundreds of non-Muslim guests.
It was held in collaboration with Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Highlighting the Ramadan message of share, the interfaith Iftar also aimed at connecting the society through sharing meals and thoughts.
"It's important. It's a part of our belief that we should share with our neighbors," Amad Banna, chairman of the council's Cleveland chapter board, said.
"And our neighbors are interfaith."
For Banna, the Iftar also helps dispel misperceptions about the Muslim community and their faith.
"There is a lot of fear for some in interacting with Muslims," Banna said.
The iftar was held in conformity with a call from CAIR in July for mosques to open doors to non-Muslims during iftar to share the spirituality of the holy fasting month and enhance Islam understanding in the country.
Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, started on Monday, August 1, in the United States.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.
During Iftar, Muslim organizers urged attendants to protect civil liberties granted by US Constitution to all US citizens, regardless of their religious inclinations.
"Each generation has to fight for their rights and for that of the next generation," Isam Zaiem, founding member of the Cleveland council's chapter, said.
"I would not be here if my brothers and sisters in the African-American community did not fight in the 1960s."
Muneer O. Awad, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of CAIR, stressed a similar message to fight growing anti-Islam bigotry.
"We've seen this discrimination and marginalization and demonization evolve over time," Awad said.
"The effort today is to make that irrational fear, rational."
Since 9/11, US Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.
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