CAIRO – Muslims in California's Fresno valley are preparing for Ramadan with a special photography contest aiming at showing Islamic faith, interfaith unity and the spirits of the holy month.
"This is our busiest time of the year," Seyed Ali Ghazvini, the imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, told Fresno Bee.
"Members that you don't see regularly during the year, you see them at Eid."
Anticipating for the start of the holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic center, the Valley's largest Muslim congregation, was preparing for a series of events though out Ramadan to bring Muslims together and unite them with non-Muslims.
The events emphasize the importance of depending upon God and giving to others.
Among these activities, which go through the holy month and end with the festival celebration of `Eid al-Fitr, was the annual photo contest.
The photo competition, held for the second year, was a creative way to show the Islamic faith, respect for other faiths, Muslim culture and unity and diversity.
Photographers were asked to respect people’s privacy and get permission before taking photos.
At the end of each week of Ramadan last year, a panel of three judges selected a winning photo. It was then posted on the center's website and Facebook page as well as featured in the center's e-newsletter.
Winners would be awarded cash with the amounts of $100, $60, $35 and $25.
"A photo is an article by itself," he says.
"It doesn't need words. It is a language that is understood globally. You don't need to know Arab, Spanish or any other language. It is a language that every person understands and appreciates."
The idea of the contest was first suggested by Negin Tahvildary, a research assistant at the Islamic center and a teacher of Islamic Studies at Fresno State
She wanted people to take photos at the center's Ramadan events that captured culture and traditions as well as the meaning of Islam.
Last year’s competition reflected Islamic teachings about the importance of giving to others during Ramadan.
Nabil Sakib, a student majoring in engineering at Fresno State, was the overall winner with a photo of Ayate Mankouri, 8, dropping a coin into the center's donation box.
"The photo is very beautiful," Ghazvini says.
"It reflects the engagement of a young member. She is showing an act of devotion — sharing — and she is proud of it."
Another winning photo by Keyvan Abedi snapped a photo of Ghazvini and Bishop Armando X. Ochoa of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno shaking hands.
Ali Dadawalla, 11, who is going into the sixth grade at Mountain View Elementary School in Clovis, was another winner.
He took a photo of his godmother, Fatema Salemwalla, tenderly kissing the hand of Ali's brother, Abbas, 9, who is entering the fifth grade at Mountain View.
Muslim family members are taught to greet each other with kisses on the hand. The youngest goes first.
"It's part of our culture," Ali says. "It's emotional."
Ali says he didn't snap the photo to win a contest. He says, "I just wanted to enjoy the moment."
American Muslims are expected to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, on Tuesday, July 9.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.