VICTORIA – For the first time in the Canadian city of Victoria, in British Columbia, the mayor and council invited a local imam to the city hall on Wednesday to celebrate the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
“The city has been very good over the years at celebrating Christmas, we have carolers come in and sing for us,” Mayor Lisa Helps told Oak Bay News.
“And for many years there’s been a tradition on the first day Hanukkah to invite a rabbi to come in, and we light the menorah together.”
Helps clarified that Ismail Mohamed Nur, the imam of Al-Iman Mosque in the city, contacted her and asked what the city could do to help the community understand and celebrate Ramadan with the nearly 3,000 Muslims who live in Greater Victoria.
“One of the main purposes of Ramadan fasting is to help foster a sense of compassion for the less fortunate. When you stop eating and drinking, you look at those who are less fortunate with more compassion. You’re able to tell yourself, I know the pains of hunger and thirst, I know how it feels to go without food, even if it’s for one day,” the imam said.
On May 25, Victoria City Council agreed to partake in a day-long fast, urging the wider community to join with them to try to understand what Muslims are celebrating.
Everyone will then break their fast with the Muslim community at city hall after sunset.
Muslims are also encouraged to increase their donations during Ramadan if they have the means to do so.
“In general, Muslims are asked to donate 2.5% of their annual wealth to whatever cause they choose, though charities directly helping the impoverished are often encouraged,” Nur stated.
Ramadan is a time focused on prayer and community. Muslims are encouraged to pray and break their fast with their families and communities.
“The month-long fast may seem difficult. But it’s also a great opportunity to commit to breaking bad habits such as smoking or committing to healthier ones,” imam Nur said.
“Once you’ve picked up a good habit or dropped a bad one, and done it for a whole month, chances are those habits will stick with you for the rest of the year,” he continued.
“I believe that the benefits of Ramadan are something that we can all share in, whether a person fasts in the context of their religion or otherwise,” Nur believes.
“And if we come together and share based on those shared values, I think it helps create a more understanding community.”