"The American ideal is not that we all agree with each other, or even like each other, every minute of the day. It is rather that we will respect each other's rights, especially the right to be different, and that, at the end of the day, we will understand that we are one people, one country, and one community, and that our well-being is inextricably bound up with the well-being of each and every one of our fellow citizens." C. Everett Koop, former US Surgeon General.
In a week or so, Ramadan will be ending. Ramadan is the month during each year when all Muslims fast from sun up until sundown in an effort to grow closer to God, to cleanse the body, and to gain compassion for those who suffer from hunger and who are less fortunate. Because the Islamic calendar is actually based on the moon's cycles, it is 11-12 days shorter than the regular twelve-month calendar year of the West. This means that Ramadan begins that many days earlier each year, so it never falls only during one particular month or season of the year, like many Western holidays do, such as Christmas or Halloween.
There are only two official Islamic holidays, and the one that marks the end of Ramadan is called Eid al-Fitr. It is usually a time when Muslims go their mosques to attend services, for families visiting and sharing meals together, for new clothes and maybe gifts for the children, although nothing way overboard along the scales of some people's idea of Christmas gift giving. This year the end of Ramadan happens to fall around September 11th. Eid al-Fitr is not the type of celebration where there is dancing in the streets, swinging from chandeliers, or fireworks or things like that - Muslims are more reserved or low key, and they just don't "celebrate" in many of the ways that Westerners do when one thinks of celebrations. But because the end of Ramadan coincides with September 11th this year, many Muslims - especially American Muslims - are facing a dilemma because they are fearful that some Americans will misinterpret their Muslim holiday celebration as a celebration of the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001.
With Islamophobia reaching new heights recently, inflamed by the animosity created by protesters of the proposed "Ground Zero Mosque," American Muslims have a right to be concerned. I hope that's not the case. What we need to do is to stop buying into the rhetoric and lies spread by those hate mongers on TV and in politics who perpetuate the fear of diversity and fan the flames of hate. Does America really want to define itself as a country of religious intolerance, where right-wing Christian nut jobs defiantly plan to burn Korans on 9/11? I mean, how disrespectful and malicious can some people be? It's time for Americans to remember that their country was founded centuries ago by people who were SEEKing religious freedom, and that all religions should be tolerated. It's time for Americans to stop blaming all Muslims and Islam for what happened on 9/11 nine years ago and to try to understand that those 19 twisted young men responsible for it acted without the support or approval of the vast majority of Muslims. It's time for healing, for peace, for understanding, for compassion. It is time.
Click here to read an in-depth article on this same topic written by Rachel Zoll, a Religion Writer for AP.