News / USA

US Muslims Make Adjustments for Ramadan

Following Religious Teachings Can be a Challenge for Some US Muslimsi
July 24, 2013 10:48 PM
Muslims are a small minority in the U.S., so it can be a challenge for some of the faithful to observe their religion in a society that doesn’t follow the same rituals. This is especially so during Ramadan, which this year falls on the hottest and longest days in large areas of the globe. VOA’s Julie Taboh spoke with some Washington area Muslims about how they manage to fast from dawn to dusk for 30 days.
Following Religious Teachings Can be a Challenge for Some US Muslims
Muslims are a small minority in the U.S., so it can be a challenge for some of the faithful to observe their religion in a society that doesn’t follow the same rituals.

This is especially so during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, which this year falls on the hottest and longest days of the year. But some Washington-area Muslim Americans find that their employers do try to accommodate their needs during 30 days of fasting from dawn to dusk.

Sami Malek has been fasting from dawn to dusk since the start of Ramadan. As a waiter at a popular Middle Eastern restaurant and market, he is constantly surrounded by the sight and smell of food and drink. But that hasn’t tempted the 23-year-old graduate student to deviate from his faith.

“When I make good service and people are enjoying the food, I feel happy,” he said. “When people tell me ‘It’s good food, I like it, it’s very delicious,’ I feel good.”

Malek is observing his first Ramadan in the U.S. since arriving from Algeria less than a year ago. He said it’s about mind over matter.

“If you want to do Ramadan, you do it, and you have to do it because you are Muslim,” he said. “Usually the first day is hard; first day, second day, but after that, it’s like habituation.”

Malek is fortunate to have his employer's support. Imad Rababeh, manager of the Mount of Lebanon restaurant where Malek works, tries to make accommodations for all his Muslim employees.

“To start off, I give them frequent breaks throughout the entire day to go pray,” he said. “I pretty much give them all the time to eat at Iftar time and they have frequent breaks throughout the day and if they get tired I allow them to sit.”

Rababeh is not alone. There are a few other employers that also try to accommodate the religious needs of their Muslim employees.
US Muslim Rizwan Jaka (in gray shirt) prays with fellow employees at his workplace. (Photo by Shad Imam)US Muslim Rizwan Jaka (in gray shirt) prays with fellow employees at his workplace. (Photo by Shad Imam)
US Muslim Rizwan Jaka (in gray shirt) prays with fellow employees at his workplace. (Photo by Shad Imam)
US Muslim Rizwan Jaka (in gray shirt) prays with fellow employees at his workplace. (Photo by Shad Imam)

Rizwan Jaka, a board member of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), the largest mosque in the Washington, D.C. area, said the American corporation that he works for has been very respectful of him as a Muslim.

“When the Muslims who work in our company are having their daily prayers they provide us space for prayer so that we can have a quiet place to pray, and that’s year round," he said. "And then, beyond that in the month of Ramadan when we’re fasting, the company is very respectful of that as well…Like if there’s a team lunch, instead of having a team lunch we’ll have a team dinner after sunset.”
Imam Johari, director of outreach at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center outside Washington, said Ramadan is not supposed to be a hardship.  

“It is meant for people who are mature, who are healthy,” he explained. “But if you’re pregnant or you’re sick or you’re on a journey, or you’re elderly or you’re a minor, you are not obligated to fast.”

But there are challenges. Twenty-year-old Muntasir Sarsour points to things that are not always within his control.

“You can’t get away from immodest girls unless you live in a cave. That’s not going to happen,” he said. “But you just try your best to lower your gaze and keep on moving.”

“There’s difficulties and distractions everywhere, especially in this society here in America,” added his friend Junaid Khan. “You can’t always rely on God to do everything for you. So personally, inside of your heart, you have to try your best.”

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Comment Sorting
by: Mohel Metzitzah from: Jew York
July 25, 2013 1:42 PM
Why do the ultra orthodox jews have a bus service in heimy town and the goy tax payers foot the bill? After all the jews only makeup 1.8% of USA population.

Enough with the hasbara horse-crap fool!

by: modest enough from: Minnesota
July 25, 2013 1:29 PM
“You can’t get away from immodest girls unless you live in a cave. That’s not going to happen,” he said. “But you just try your best to lower your gaze and keep on moving.”

Give me a break! Immodest means not being completely covered from head to toe. This is not a Muslim country. As for me, I don't like to see women imprisoned in garments covering everything aside from their face, or sometimes only their eyes. The men are not required to cover every inch of skin, only women. I have always been more modest than the average American female, but I don't like double-standards and religions that do not have equal rights for women. Muslim women are not even allowed to pray in the same place that males pray. Women are treated as property and have few if any rights. If a girl is attacked and raped, she better have four male witnesses or she will be accused of illicit sex herself. She may end up stoned to death or killed by her own family. Look at what happened to the woman from Norway who was raped in Dubai - SHE was convicted and sentenced to 16 months in jail before her country was able to get her released! Women in some Muslim countries are not allowed to drive a car, or go out in public without a male relative as a chaperone.
If you expect girls and women to be what you consider to be modest, then you do belong in a cave!
In Response

by: Badr al-Deen from: Wisconsin
July 27, 2013 8:19 PM
No, this is not a muslim country, but that is irrelevant.

A young man whose hormones have kicked into overdrive is obviously sensitive to the manner in which many women in his immediate environment seek to draw attention to themselves by their physical appearance. In mainstream American society, numerous elements of influence tend to promulgate and reinforce standards of superficial judgment ~ standards upon which both men and women are psychologically conditioned. As such, the term "immodest," as used by the young man featured in this article, implies a disposition that places a premium upon physical appearance while devaluing the person for whom he/she actually is.

And I don't imagine you have to be a muslim to understand that such a disposition suffuses American society. But it appears you have an axe to grind with muslims and you're just using one comment as a soapbox upon which to stand and rant.

Oh, well ...
In Response

by: lisa from: Ohio
July 26, 2013 5:19 PM
Muslim women are too precious to be on a public display. They don't have equal rights because men and women are not equal. Each gender has different capability and Islam acknowledges that! Women need protection, love, and care. Men are the providers. If a woman chooses to not work it is the duties of the husband to make sure she is well taken care of. Women have rights that is different than men in Islam. Different isn't necessarily a bad thing.

In regards to stoning... please don't confuse culture with the religion. Islam doesn't allow stoning unless 4 different people witness adultery taking place at 4 different occasions and they have proof that they saw the actual action of adultery taking place. not two ppl naked but people actually engaging in the act of fornication. What is the likelihood of that happening?

Please read more about the religion from the book of your Maker- the Quran. before you start repeating what the media tube throws at you.

have a blessed day.
In Response

by: me from: Texas
July 26, 2013 1:24 PM
lol... my question is: why are you bothered by women choosing to cover their body? Just because you want to walk around with all eyes on you doesn't mean everyone else has to want the same thing.

I decided to put on my scarf and dress modestly about 2 years ago and not a single soul forced me to do it. I CHOOSE to be decent! and if I think covering from head to toe is decent what is it to you?

I am not oppressed. I am not imprisoned. I am free in a wonderful country which gives me the right to practice my religion freely. You are right! the US isn't a Muslim Country. and i don't really care if it is or it isn't... I love the United States because of this thing called Freedom of Religion.. maybe you have heard of it?

I respect Christians, Jew, Athiest, Hindus, Buddist.. or any other form of religion. Everyone is entitled to their belief are practicing their belief without a problem... why do you have a problem with Muslims practicing their religion?
In Response

by: boy from: Pittsburgh
July 25, 2013 4:09 PM
In Islam Men are also required to cover. most of the women who cover do it by their own will, some by culture influence some do it for extra modesty. Islam dictates to be modest and its people who can follow by dressing however they want, they can cover head to toe or just head scarf.

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
July 25, 2013 10:09 AM
It is good that the Moslem employer consider the welfare of the Moslem employees in observing Ramadan. I hope the Moslem employer show the same courtesy to Christian employees for observing the Good Friday and other Christian holy days. In the US, the government cannot give special dispensations to Moslem public employees for Ramadan observations. It will be considered special treatment of a religion by the government and it is illegal. The Government in the US did not provide special dispensations to Christians to observe Good Friday for the same reason.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 25, 2013 4:15 PM
US Government holidays include Christmas, so its special dispensation, isn't it?
In Response

by: jonathan huang from: canada
July 25, 2013 12:57 PM
in canada we do have holiday on good friday or easter day. Is that discrimination against other believers?

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 25, 2013 2:19 AM
I admire the Muslims to obey strictly the rules of Koran. I learn in this article that they note the importance of acting modestly and being patient in the way of life. Ramadan is exempted from sick, elder and minor people.

Nevertheless, am I the last person who think there are too many rituals to keep in Islam? Employers, ignoring cost-performance, who are generous enogh to accommodate Islamists look also very patinet. I hope Islamist would not be too much bound by the rules. They live for their happy lives and not for the Koran. This is only my two cents. Thank you.
In Response

by: Noor
July 26, 2013 4:52 AM
Some are not too strict they do the bare minimum, but in Ramadan, us Muslims try to get closer to God. Hope that helps and have a great day.

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