8/24/2009 – KADENA AIR BASE, Japan — â€œItâ€™s like planning for Christmas while everyone else is going about their business,â€ said Tech. Sgt. Angela Errahimi, a combat communications chief with the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, about preparing for Ramadan here. This same sense of dislocation is no doubt shared by many military members celebrating Ramadan in places like Okinawa where Islam is by far a minority religion.
Ramadan, which began Aug. 22, is a 30-day fast during which devout Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sex from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is the preeminent ritual in a faith that gives particular importance to its ritual observances.
â€œIslam was something I was looking for – the mosque was so quiet and peaceful,â€ said Sergeant Errahimi of her conversion six years ago. After meeting her now-husband, who is from Morocco, she studied at a mosque for one year prior to making her â€œshahadaâ€ or witness of faith.
It was Islamâ€™s structure and emphasis on community that first appealed to Staff Sgt. Marvin Morris, an X-ray technician and the assistant NCOIC of radiology at the 18th Medical Operations Squadron. He called the daily regimen of five scheduled prayers â€œthe military version of prayer.â€
â€œThe first few days of fasting are hard,â€ said Sergeant Morris. At Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where he was previously stationed, several non-Muslim friends attempted to join him in the fast; one friend made it one whole day. For Sergeant Morris, itâ€™s in large part the hardship of fasting that makes Ramadan so special: â€œThatâ€™s what itâ€™s about. Itâ€™s a cleansing process, a chance to focus inward and renew your commitment to Allah.â€
The dayâ€™s perseverance is rewarded come sunset, as â€œIftarâ€ – the evening meal at which each dayâ€™s fast is broken – tends to be an extravagant affair. For a week leading up to Ramadan, Sergeant Errahimi and her husband, who have four children at home, prepared various dishes and pastries so as to have a stockpile once Ramadan actually began. Food preparation, too, is more difficult and requires more planning in Okinawa than in Washington, D.C., where the Errahimis lived previously. â€œHalalâ€ meats are especially hard to come by.
Ramadan will conclude Sept. 19 with â€œEid,â€ a major festival that traditionally involves a special public prayer, feasting, gift-giving, and visiting with family and friends. This communal, festive aspect of Ramadan may be somewhat lacking for Sgt. Morris this year, as heâ€™s new to the island and hasnâ€™t yet made many friends amongst the on-island Muslim community, miniscule compared to the one in northern California.
In 2007, Sergeant Morris celebrated Ramadan at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. While there he worked the night shift, convenient because it allowed him to sleep during the day when he couldnâ€™t eat or drink. On multiple occasions he was able take â€œIftarâ€ with a group of Egyptian Muslims working in Afghanistan. â€œI loved it,â€ he said, â€œItâ€™s a different culture, but weâ€™re connected by our shared faith. Itâ€™s like a family away from family.â€
NC Mosque hit by hate crime
TAYLOR, NC– A mosque in Taylors has been victim of a hate crime. The words â€˜Death to Muslimsâ€™ were carved in a concrete outside the Islamic Center.
The anti-religious message was written sometime in the early morning hours last Saturday. For members like Miriam Abbad, itâ€™s hard to see. Sheâ€™s worshipped for 10 years at the center. â€œWhen they say death to Muslims, that means me, my young children, my husband, my whole family. What did we do wrong to deserve such mean words to come out?â€
The FBI is investigating the case.
Delaware Muslim prof. network
A new service-based organization has formed with the goal of inviting Muslims to participate in activities that benefit the community.
The Muslim Professionals of Delaware began last month and is working on its first project, a drive to collect school supplies for disadvantaged children.
Group founders Semab Chaudhry and Ahmed Sharkawy, said they want to work with interfaith groups to help the needy, foster greater cultural understanding and hold career and college development workshops.
Anyone interested in joining or working with the group can visit www.mpod.us.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.