RAMADAN PRAYERS & FEARS

This year the Islamic holy month comes with traditional fasting and prayers. But, in the wake of rising Islamophobia, it also comes with newfound fears.

For more on info on NYU’s Global Center of Academic & Spiritual Life click here.

Aired on May 17, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

FOR 30 DAYS, MUSLIMS AROUND THE WORLD WILL GIVE UP PLEASURES AND FOCUS ON PRAYER AND READ THE KORAN IN CELEBRATION OF THE HOLY HOLIDAY OF RAMADAN.

GATHERING IN MAOSQUES.

WHAT PRECAUTIONS MIGHT THE COMMUNITY BE TAKING THIS HOLIDAY?

WHAT CAN WE DO TO SUPPORT THEM?

HERE TO TALK WITH US ABOUT THE HOLY MONTH IS ASSOCIATE CHAPLAIN AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY OF GLOBAL CENTER OF SPIRITUAL.

IT'S A DELIGHT TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

I'M GOING TO ASK YOU TO ASSUME YOUR ROLE OF PROFESSOR HERE.

AND TO TEACH SOME OF US THE SIGNIFICANCE AND MEANING OF THESE EVENTS.

LET'S START WITH RAMADAN.

IT'S A NIGHT ON THE ISLAMIC CALENDAR.

IT'S A MONTH OF REAL OBSERVANCE OF THE ISLAMIC TRADITION BY MEANS OF ABSTAINING FROM FOOD AND DRINK, BY MEANS OF DEVOTION AND SUBMISSION TO GOD, BY NUMEROUS PRAYERS, READING OF THE QURAN.

LIFE IS FILLED WITH SO MANY FRACTIONS AND UPS AND DOWNS.

DURING THE COURSE OF THE 30 DAYS, WE STRIVE TOWARD ALLOWING FOR OUR HEARTS TOWARD CONNECTING TOWARD THINGS WHICH ARE FAR MORE VALUABLE THAN FOOD AND DRINK.

THAT, OF COURSE, IS CONNECTING WITH OUR MORALITY AND FOCUSSING ON THEMES LIKE MERCY AND PATIENCE AND COMPASSION AND GENEROSITY.

ONCE IN AWHILE, WE NEED CERTAIN THINGS TO RECENTER US IN LIFE BECAUSE OF HOW BUSY THINGS GET.

SO THE MONTH OF RAMADAN IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO JUST THAT.

FASTING, AS YOU MENTIONED, IS A SIGNIFICANT PART OF THAT PERIOD OF REFLECTION AND PRAYER.

WHAT IS THE ROLE THAT FASTING PLAYS?

YEAH.

USUALLY WHEN -- USUALLY THE FIRST THOUGHT THAT COMES TO PEOPLE'S MINDS WHEN THEY HEAR RAMADAN IS FASTING.

RIGHT NOW THE MONTH OF RAMADAN IS GETTING CLOSE TOWARD THE SUMMER PERIOD.

WE'RE FASTING IN UPWARDS OF 17 HOURS ABSTAINING FROM FOOD AND DRINK.

MANY PEOPLE WONDER, LIKE, WHY?

DOES THAT MEAN FASTING FROM WATER?

YEAH, IT DOES MEAN THAT.

IT DOES MEAN THAT.

GIVE ME THE PARAMETERS.

THE TIME.

YEAH, SO THE TIME OF FASTING IS A LITTLE BIT PRIOR TO DAWN UNTIL SOON AFTER SUNSET.

SO WE'RE TALKING ABOUT APPROXIMATELY FROM 4:00 A.M. TO A LITTLE BIT AFTER 8:00 P.M.

AND IT'S INCREDIBLY CHALLENGING AND INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT, BUT, AGAIN, WHAT IT ALLOWS US DO AND THAT'S THE CRUX OF THE FAST IS FOR US TO MARGINALIZE AND ISOLATE SO MANY DISTRACTIONS IN LIFE.

IF YOU THINK ABOUT HOW OUR DAYS GO, THE FIRST THING WE THINK ABOUT IN THE MORNING IS WHERE AM I GOING TO GET THE FIRST CUP OF COFFEE.

SIMILARLY WHAT AM I HAVING FOR LUNCH.

WHERE AM I GOING FOR DINNER?

AND YOU'RE WALKING DOWN THE STREET AND THERE'S A MILLION COFFEE SHOPS IN NEW YORK CITY AND YOUR MIND IS DIRECTED FOR YOU TO JUST WALK IN, GRAB A CUP, WALK OUT.

BUT OVER HERE YOU KNOW YOU HAVE TO ABSTAIN FROM ALL OF THAT.

AND THAT REALLY CHANNELS THE ONE WHO IS OBSERVING THE FAST TO ALLOW FOR THEMSELVES TO FOCUS ON THAT, WHICH IS HOPEFULLY A LITTLE BIT MORE IMPORTANT.

YEAH.

STRIPPING AWAY THE DISTRACTIONS.

STRIPPING AWAY THE DISTRACTIONS ALLOW YOU TO BECOME CENTERED.

EXACTLY.

BECOME PART OF YOUR BELIEVES AND CONTEMPLATE YOUR BELIEVES.

YEAH.

SO MUCH IS REFLECTION, CONTEMPLATION, MEDITATION.

IT ALLOWS FOR A MINDFULNESS.

YOU BECOME COGNIZANT WHY IT IS YOU'RE DOING WHAT IT IS YOU'RE DOING.

IF I WAS HUNGRY BECAUSE I MISSED MY LUNCH BREAK, I'LL BE IN A BAD MOOD.

RIGHT.

I'M GOING TO BE UPSET AND MY HEAD WILL HURT.

BECAUSE I KNOW I'M DOING IT FOR GOD'S SAKE, I'M DOING IT TO OBSERVE MY TRADITION.

I'M DOING IT TO RECENTER MYSELF, THOSE DISTRACTIONS DON'T POP INTO MY HEAD.

WE THINK ABOUT THAT WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FOOD AND DRINK.

HOW YOU DESCRIBED IT HERE IS SOME PEOPLE MIGHT MISINTERPRET TO THINK IT'S A SELF-PUNISHMENT.

YOU'RE DEPRIVING YOURSELF OF THESE THINGS.

AS YOU SAID, IT'S DIFFERENT.

NO, IT'S ABSOLUTELY NOT.

DEFINITELY NOT DEPRIVING US.

AND NOT A SENSE OF SELF-PUNISHMENT.

IT OFFERS AN OPPORTUNITY TO REFOCUS, I WOULD SAY, PROBABLY US LIVING IN THE SOCIETY OF, LIKE, OVER CONSUMPTION IS PUNISHING US AND THIS SORT OF ALLOWS US TO HIT THE RESET BUTTON AND SORT OF, YOU KNOW, RETHINK ABOUT HOW WE ENGAGE LIFE.

AND TALK ABOUT BREAKING THE FAST.

IT'S NOT JUST OF A MATTER I CAN GRAB SOMETHING TO EAT.

THERE'S MORE OF THE PART OF THE RELIGIOUS CELEBRATION TO THE BREAKING OF THE FAST.

YEAH.

MANY PEOPLE THINK THAT THE MONTH OF RAMADAN IS A DEPRESSING TIME FOR MUSLIMS WHERE WE STARE AT A WALL ALL DAY.

I USED TO HEAR THESE THINGS GROWING UP.

AND IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF IGNORANCE BUT THE MONTH OF RAMADAN IS FESTIVE.

AND THE BREAKING OF THE FAST IS A MICROCAUSAM OF THAT FESTIVITY.

OFTENTIMES YOU DON'T BREAK YOUR FAST ON YOUR OWN YOU GO TO A LOCAL ISLAMIC CENTER AND DO IT WITH YOUR FAMILY AND COMMUNITY AB FRIENDS YOU HAVEN'T SEEN FOR A LONG TIME.

AND PEOPLE GATHER TOGETHER AND THEY EAT, THEY DRINK, THEY, LIKE, SHARE CERTAIN EXPERIENCES.

IT BECOMES A -- THERE'S A COMMUNAL ATMOSPHERE TO THE BREAKING OF THE FAST EVERY EVENING.

IT'S A WONDERFUL TIME.

AND IT'S IMPORTANT, I THINK, FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE FAITH TO REALIZE IT'S A PERIOD OF CELEBRATION.

ABSOLUTELY.

WHICH LEADS ME TO THE DIFFICULT QUESTION WHICH IS ON THE HEELS OF THE TERRIBLE EVENTS IN NEW ZEALAND, WHAT SORT OF IMPACTS DO YOU THINK THOSE -- THOSE EVENTS ARE GOING TO HAVE OR WOULD HAVE ON THE PERIOD OF TIME OF RAMADAN?

YEAH, I MEAN, THE LAST TWO AND A HALF YEARS HAVE BEEN INCREDIBLY TRYING FOR THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY IN THE UNITED STATES AND ACROSS THE WORLD DUE TO THE ATTACKS AND POLITICAL RHETORIC AND SEMANTICS.

NOT ONLY FOR THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY BUT THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES, YOU KNOW, ACROSS THIS COUNTRY.

AND, YOU KNOW, THE WAKE OF THE ATTACKS THAT TOOK PLACE IN NEW ZEALAND IN MARCH, THAT KILLED, YOU KNOW, MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE, MANY RELIGIOUS BASES ARE ACTUALLY SEEING AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ATTENDING.

AND I THINK THAT SHOWS -- DEMONSTRATES THE NOTION OF RESILIENCE THAT AS MUCH AS, YOU KNOW, WHITE SUPREMACY WANTED TO ISOLATE MUSLIMS FROM EMBRACING THEIR FAITH AND EMBRACING THEIR IDEOLOGY, THEY'RE FINDING PEOPLE ARE COMING OUT IN SIGNIFICANT NUMBERS THESE DAYS AND I'M SURE AS THE MONTH OF RAMADAN CONTINUES OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS, WE'LL SEE THE NUMBERS SIGNIFICANTLY BE ON THE UPTICK AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE SORT OF REALLY RALLYING AROUND THE NOTION OF EMBRACEMENT OF ONE'S IDENTITY IRREGARDLESS OF SORT OF THE RHETORIC AND THE POTENTIAL FOR VIOLENCE.

THAT'S NOT TO SAY THAT NOT MANY ISLAMIC CENTERS AND MOSQUES ARE NOT TAKING THE NECESSARY PREREQUISITES AND MEASURES.

THERE ARE MANY COMMUNITIES THAT ARE, YOU KNOW, HIRING CERTAIN SECURITY TASK FORCES TO REALLY PATROL THE CENTER.

OTHERWISE MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY ARE STANDING OUTSIDE AND SORT OF CHECKING IN ON FOLKS.

BEING VIGILANT.

BEING VIGILANT.

YEAH.

WE ALL KNOW THAT THE CORNER STONE OF TOLERANCE IS UNDERSTANDING.

ABSOLUTELY.

AND CERTAINLY YOU HELP US TO UNDERSTAND THE MONTH AND THE CELEBRATION AND THE SIGNIFICANCE.

YOU'VE DONE A MARVELOUS JOB IN YOUR ROLE OF A TEACHER.

WE APPRECIATE YOU SPENDING TIME WITH US.

ABSOLUTELY.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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