LONDON – As a young British Muslim student, Omar Salha started his open iftar project in 2011, offering Muslim students in London a chance to share the break fast meal of cookies and crisps with others.
“It’s almost like the Christmas for Muslims,” jokes Omar Salha, npr reported on Sunday, June 11.
“When you have on Christmas day everyone gathered with family members—it just doesn’t seem right that during Ramadan you’re breaking fast alone.”
Since that date, Salha has worked with groups launching Open Iftars around the world, hosting tens of thousands of people—from Turkey to Canada, the UK to Zambia.
He has also extended it to a larger organization, the Ramadan Tent Project, which does charitable events throughout the year.
Six years into this project, it has grown up to welcome people of all faiths, cater to homeless and educate people on Islamic culture.
Along with daily iftars in London, other events were held across the world.
The first Open Iftar in the United States was held last year in Portland, Oregon. This year, the event was especially charged, coming less than 24 hours after two people were killed standing up to anti-Muslim violence.
Over 600 people turned out for the Open Iftar at a local community center, sitting on folding chairs and on the ground, indoors and out.
Many had never really sat down with their Muslim neighbors before, but felt compelled to show up and show support.
“I didn’t know should I dress differently, should I take my shoes off when I walk in the door—you know, all those things that go through your mind when you’ve never been to a mosque before,” admitted Laurie King, who drove a half hour to attend the event.
“I just found that you come as you are, and you’re welcome.”
Over the meal, Muslims and non-Muslims moved beyond political rhetoric and religious divides, and got to know each other, which is the true point of Ramadan according to Salha.
“These are interesting habits which are conducted over the course of the month which allow us to come closer to our community,” said Salha.
“And becoming closer to our community means we are becoming closer to God as well.”