AUSTIN, Texas – Austin Muslims have joined the city’s community leaders for the third annual Ramadan iftar, an event organized to “bridge the gap between local elected officials and Austin’s Muslim community.”
“A major part of celebrating our diversity is building bridges with other groups and that requires us to actually be there when they need our support the most,” Kumail Hasan, President of the Austin Muslim Civic Ambassadors at the Asian American Resource Center, told guests, My Statesman reported.
Saturday’s program, hosted by AMCA, began with a recitation from the Qur’an before guest speakers addressed the night’s major theme: civic engagement.
Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, started in North America on Wednesday, May 16.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The meal that breaks the fast at sunset is called iftar.
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.
The event was attended by several members of Austin City Council, including Mayor Steve Adler and council members Kathie Tovo, Ora Houston, Ann Kitchen and Leslie Pool.
Adler said the event is an expression of what it means for the community to get to know their neighbors better, adding that the recent bombings demonstrated why this is necessary.
“What we learned during this period of time is that we are most suspicious of what we don’t see actively involved around us, of those things that don’t intersect our lives on a daily basis and as a community we have to move past that,” he said.
He said he hopes to see the citywide iftar grow to be as large as Houston’s event, which more than 1,000 people attend each year.
“I pledge that for next iftar I will fight to match that same measure of devotion and commitment to something that is intended to be citywide,” he said.
“This iftar is our city at its best and I’m so honored to be a part of it.”
Over 250 people attended the event, said Hasan, adding that the number of guests has more than doubled since last year.
“It means my city is accepting, is tolerant and loving to all its citizens,” Austin resident Malikah Abdullah-Gil, who attended the event for the first time, said, adding that is what Ramadan is all about.
“It’s a time where we learn what it feels like to humble, learn what it’s like to be compassionate and learn just to give more,” she said. “It’s about fellowship and love.”