CAIRO – Australian Muslims are planning to invite Sydney community to attend the first ever Ramadan festival planned later in July to share the festivities of the holy month and break barriers inside the community.
"This is the first time we're organizing the Ramadan Festival in Sydney," Sarwat Hassan, one of the event organizers, told Blacktown Sun on Tuesday, June 24.
"The Ramadan month is for the community, the "ummah", to bring people together," she added.
Opening doors to the whole community, Sydney's first Ramadan Festival will take place at Blacktown's Bowman Hall on July 19.
The event, the first to be held in Sydney, plans a free family day that includes stalls with fashion, jewellery, clothing, food, henna and face painting.
The festival also offers an opportunity to "open up" and share Ramadan with more people, with Blacktown chosen as one of the first locations due to its high multicultural population.
"It's breaking down those barriers between people," she said.
"Our aim is to have this event in different suburbs across NSW in the future."
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, is expected to begin next June 28 in North America and Europe.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
Away from the festival, Muslims from across western Sydney were putting final touches on their preparations to welcome the holy month.
El-Kadomis, the father of seven and grandfather of 16, was preparing with his family to go through 30 days of fasting which will include abstaining from food and water from dawn to dusk.
After the sun has set, they will break their fast with prayers and a serving of food known as "iftar", which can take place in the home or in a mosque.
"Fasting is for the rich to feel what the poor feel," said Neil El-Kadomi, 68, who is chairman of the Parramatta Islamic Cultural Association.
"It gathers people together, to have iftar together. We talk to each other and get closer to God."
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
As of the 2011 census, Blacktown local government area had a total 17,501 people who identified as Muslim.
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