Seeking Understanding Through A Ramadan Iftar Experience
My first reaction to the 2018 Ramadan Iftar with Oklahoma Legislators is wow! As a non-Muslim, it was a great event to experience. There was such a wide range of people in attendance, from older to younger and some even brought their children. There were people of all faith groups in attendance, which surprised me because I did not realize the support the Muslim community has from those who do not practice the religion. Today you hear so much negativity with regards to Islam and the Muslim community. So, it was a breath of fresh air to see so many people supporting Oklahoma’s Muslim community that were willing to put their differences aside for the sake of unity.
During the program, one thing I really enjoyed was the recitation from the Holy Qur’an. Although I did not initially understand what was being said, it was at that moment I realized how much the Muslim community values the “word” of the Qur’an and how it guides the way of life. I understood this before the event, but at that moment in time, it became clearer to me as they took time to remember God before doing anything else.
The feeling of being welcomed and accepted
Before the event I was a little nervous about how I would be perceived by those in attendance. Once the guests started to arrive, I was amazed at how nice and inviting everyone was. Several guests came to me and introduced themselves, shook my hand, and thanked me for interning with CAIR Oklahoma. This made me feel welcomed and accepted by the Muslim community. Whether we know it or not, we all have our own preconceptions about people, culture and religion, and we tend to use those preconceptions as a safeguard, but at Iftar I did not. I pushed out all of those preconceived notions and instead allowed my experience to shape my understanding.
Just about all my friends who are Muslim tend to hold their beliefs private and I respect that, but after attending the Iftar I realized that although sharing your faith is a very personal decision, there are exceptions, and this event was one of them. I had the opportunity to be a part of a cultural and spiritual event that is typically celebrated with loved ones and those who share the same beliefs. The hospitality, kindness, and respect I received was truly an eye opener for me and to be able to experience a little bit of the culture during a holy time was probably one of the best experiences of my life.
Taking a walk in the shoes and experience of Oklahoma Muslims
I was also impressed with all of the speakers and how passionate they were about meeting and learning more about the needs, wants and issues that face their Muslim constituents. It gave the Legislators the opportunity to speak with the constituents in their comfort zone and to see devout Muslims in action. This is important because Ramadan is a very important time of the year for Muslims, as it is a time for reflection and spirituality. To invite those who are not a part of the community to be a part of this sacred time shows the willingness of the Muslim community to open up about their beliefs and practices.
Oh, and the food! The food was catered by ZamZam Mediterranean Grill and it was delicious! All of food was halal and like nothing I have ever eaten before. The butter chicken and the grape leaves were my favorite and of course the pita bread and hummus were great as well.
Overall my experience at my first Iftar was a great one and it has opened my heart and mind to about a better understanding of Islam and the Muslim community. It gave me an opportunity to step into another’s shoes and experience his or her way of life and for that I am grateful!