Ramadan in the US

Click here to watch the video.

July 18, 2013 | New York, NY –
 Muslims around the world are currently observing Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. In accordance with age-old Islamic tradition, they are avoiding food and drink between sunrise and sunset. Many are also using this time for spiritual and personal reflection – challenging themselves to enhance their self-discipline, empathy and generosity, among other values.
 
As the number of Muslims living in the US rises, these practices are becoming more pervasive throughout the country. Non-Muslims are increasingly being exposed to Ramadan's rich, cultural traditions first hand, through colleagues fasting at the office or being invited to join friends' nightly iftar (the meal served after sunset to break the daily fast).
 
Moreover, Ramadan in America provides an ideal opportunity for Muslims to share their beliefs and culture more generally – even among fellow Muslims.
 
“Ramadan in America is becoming a month of outreach,” said Imam Arafat, President and Founder of the Civilization Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (CECF), in his recent video, “Ramadan in America is about Community. *
 
“It’s an opportunity for [Muslims] to reach out and to talk…there has to be discussion…and the best [way] to do it – over food.”
 
AFS-USA Intern, Ibrahim Alqablan, a native of Saudi Arabia, couldn't agree more.
 
“When I go to Islamic centers in New York City, I get to meet Muslims from various countries who have a different understanding of Islam,” he stated. “Despite our disagreements on major issues, we all get together to break the fast.”
 
Ibrahim, who is currently attending college in the US on a J-1 Visa, admits that observing Ramadan can be difficult. Yet, the benefits are invaluable.
 
“To me, the point of this holy month is developing a sense of understanding that helps me relate to people’s struggles,” he says.
 
Facilitating understanding through exchange
 
The increasing visibility of Ramadan in this country is a positive sign for organizations like AFS-USA, who work to enhance intercultural understanding.
 
As part of these efforts, AFS-USA hosts more than 200 exchange students from predominantly Muslim countries each year through the Kennedy-Luger Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program. 

Funded by the US State Department, the YES Program allows Muslim youth to gain an intimate understanding of US culture by attending US high schools and living with US host families. It also gives host families the opportunity to learn about Islam and its manifestations in daily life. 
 
To facilitate deeper understanding among these students and host families, AFS-USA holds an annual educational session on Ramadan and its constituent values. The session includes informative emails and conference calls with an Imam.

Chief among the religious authorities consulted during these sessions is Imam Arafat, a valued partner of AFS-USA. In addition to educating US citizens, Imam Arafat provides support to AFS-USA’s Muslim exchange students who encounter religious-based challenges during their study abroad programs. 
 
Ramadan 2013
 
This year, Ramadan is taking place between July 9 - August 9. The 2013 class of YES students will therefore experience most of the holy month in their home countries. However, those arriving in the US between August 5 - 9 will celebrate the final days of Ramadan, as well as the culminating feast of Eid-al-Fitr, while at arrival orientation in Washington DC.

 
*The video, “Ramadan in America is about Community, was created in cooperation with the US State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy.