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Merry Ramadan
Amer Zahr
by Amer Zahr
August 2nd, 2011 (8 Comments)
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Muslims are entering the holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, reflection, and sleeping in whenever possible. As I have told you all before, I come from an interreligious family. My father is a Christian and my mother is a Muslim. It is the type of marriage forbidden in both religions. And look what they got... Me.

My upbringing was interreligious, not areligious. Growing up in my house meant being exposed to all faiths. We celebrated everything: Christmas, Ramadan, Easter... one year we even celebrated Yom Kippur, just out of habit. But we didn't celebrate anything too hard. We celebrated the diet version of every holiday. We got gifts on Christmas, but didn't go overboard. During Easter, we hid the eggs but never looked for them. That could explain the weird smell in the backyard. And I still fast during Ramadan... til about noon.

Actually, there is one main reason I don’t fast during Ramadan… It’s hard! For a culture completely obsessed with food, Ramadan is a true testament to the fortitude of Arabs. When we put our minds to it, we can achieve anything. And that’s what I love most about my people. Ramadan, in part, is meant to be a reminder to all Muslims as to how lucky they are to have constant access to food and a few dollars in their pockets. To me, it is also a reminder as to how Arabs are survivors.

For a group of people that have spent the last hundred years being the doormat of the media, films, and American foreign policy, spending 30 days of sunlight (even in August) without food, drink, and sex is not that big of a deal. Well, the food and drink is not that big of a deal. The last part is hard.

Arabs and Muslims are an integral part of the fabric of American society. This should go without saying. But in today’s world, it seems that we have to constantly remind Americans citizens of that fact. The first mosque in America was not built in Los Angeles, New York City, or Dearborn. It was built in Maine by Albanian Muslims in 1915. The first mosque built by Arabs was erected in 1934… in Iowa. Yes, Maine and Iowa. I wonder if Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck know that. It might make them cringe, and that would be awesome to see.

Yet American Muslims are still seen as foreigners in their own country. They are constantly seen as a threatening force. They are commonly viewed as distrustful. They are frequently being forced to declare their patriotism. And when something happens, they are always the first suspects.

When the massive explosion and mass murders occurred in Norway a week ago, I said the same thing to myself as every Arab and Muslim watching the news: “Please don’t let it be an Arab, please don't let it be an Arab.” Some news agencies started reporting that Norway had become yet another victim of Islamic radical terrorists. When it started to become clear that the perpetrator was a white Christian right-winger, those same news agencies started to report that “the attack seems to show no signs of Islamic radicalism.”

I wonder what “signs of Islamic radicalism” actually are. Are the explosions different? Does the debris disperse in a crescent-like fashion? Do the fumes smell like garlic?

As it turns out, the atrocities in Norway were not committed by a Muslim. But they might have been committed because of Muslims. The individual who carried out these horrible acts, it seems, was terrified by what he saw as the “Islamification” of his homeland. He saw himself as the Paul Revere of his people, trying to exclaim to everyone: “The Muslims are coming!”
Well, now that Ramadan is here, every Western country should come to terms. The Muslims are not coming. They are already here. They pump your gas, build your cars, and operate on your loved ones. They sell you Big Gulps, deliver your mail, and pull you over for speeding. Some are named Muhammad, and some are named Joe. Some have beards, and some are clean-shaven. Some wear veils, and some wear bikinis. Some are easy to spot, and some aren’t. I bet that pisses off Bill and Glenn too.

So I say to my fellow Americans… During this month, get to know your Muslim American compatriots. And if you can’t locate them, wait until about 3 pm. That’s when hunger starts to knock. If you see a brown or beige person lazily walking down the street with very little energy, it’s probably because he or she hasn’t eaten since dinner the night before. Go say hello. I bet he’ll invite you over for dinner. And you better be on time. Dinner during Ramadan is the one thing we’re never late for.

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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

Comments (7)
  1. Solovey Razboynik ... August 2nd, 2011 - 02:52

    Oh, the hungry brown people, staring at a white thread and a black thread, eyes asquint, waiting for that first drink of cool water, the stuffed grape leaves, kibbee, dates… Almost worth the fasting. Now with that in mind, how could anyone be hostile towards Muslims? Ramadan is an endearing celebration, akin to Lent and Yom Kippur, brightened by the acts of charity and kindness to all. Perhaps Muslims are still viewed with dread and suspicion because they are the newest religious group to grace these shores. Remember how the Irish Catholics were greeted with “No Irish allowed” signs? The WASPS were terrified of a takeover by the evil Papal Holy See. Everyone would have to kiss the Pope’s ring and swallow those dry Communion wafers. Never happened and today St Patrick’s Day is a national feast day–everyone wants to be Irish. Jews were also once viewed with suspicion and fear, but who even remembers that today? So when will the Muslims finally be seen in the light of reason? I hate to say this, but it will be a long, long struggle. Firstly, the US has been bombing Muslim countries for many years. The Muslims cannot be seen in a sympathetic light for in order to rationalize the killing and destruction, they must be seen as diabolical enemies. Secondly, the right-wing Christian forces have a loud and powerful voice. They have decided that to fight Islam is to fight the devil, especially since Muslims are not too delighted with Israel, the site of the battle of Aramageddon, the Rapture and the End of Days, so the existence of Israel is crucial to the holy believers. Thirdly, the media and the internet have spread the horrid caricature of Muslims as lovers of death, killers of all Kafirs, wagers of jihad, suicide bombers, pedophiles, filthy, ignorant, useless to mankind as a whole. Just read some of the websites, like Masada2000 or the comments made on articles about Islam or the Middle East. I am almost ready to give up all hope. Then I read one of Amer’s gems and I smile. Merry Ramadan to all and to all a good night!

  2. awesome amer!! this is such a great article :)

  3. great as always, merry ramadan amer :)

  4. Great article, real funny 2! We are never late for breaking fast lol. Keep doing your thing!

  5. I liked the post very much, amer! Intersting blend of current events, wit, and cultue/religion snippets. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Hi Amer! It has been a long time! Hope all is well.
    Funny article, especially the last sentence, ain’t that the truth! lol Thank you so much for putting a qualifier in this sentence “Ramadan, in part, is meant to be a reminder to all Muslims as to how lucky they are to have constant access to food and a few dollars in their pockets”. “In part” in deed! because frankly I am so tired of the superficial media coverage of Ramadan which always gives the message that this is the main purpose of Ramadan. This is not what I have learned and more importantly not what I have experienced. I eat more than normal during Ramadan, although at different times, and I am sure others would say the same thing,. Actually in the middle east the sale of food products increase during this month. So lets be honest no one feels the pain of the poor and the hungry during this month in reality.
    The main point of Ramadan is about purification so our hearts can be empty of all other but God. The name of the month is derived from the word “Ramada” which means dried up land that is curved up, forming the shape of a bowl. It is dried up of everything and is gathered (forming the curved shape) and is just waiting for the rain from the heavens. We too need to be like that land, free from everything else, just waiting….
    For more on the spiritual reason for why we fast see this website:
    http://mto.org/islam/en/fasting.html

  7. Perhaps the solution to all the misconceptions and misunderstandings would be the absence of all religion. Then there could be no possibility of labeling others as a whole according to their religious beliefs.


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