Lansing-area residents gather for Ramadan dinner

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20100828/NEWS01/8280319/1002/NEWS01

Lansing-area residents gather for Ramadan dinner

Event focuses on unity, raises $12,000

SUSAN VELA • SVELA@LSJ.COM • AUGUST 28, 2010

Amid the backdrop of angst surrounding a proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City, more than 300 Lansing-area residents from various faiths and backgrounds gathered Friday for a Ramadan Unity dinner.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis hosted the dinner of Middle Eastern fare.

The “Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger” event raised approximately $12,000 for local foodbanks and drew Christians, Muslims and those of other faiths, an example of the cross-cultural affairs that sprung from 9/11.

“I leave here every year having learned something about a religion and a culture,” Loomis said.

Those in attendance agreed that the cross-cultural Ramadan dinners, fundraisers and picnics should continue even as 9/11’s consequences, including the war in Iraq, change form.

“As we move forward, given our economic downturn, it’s important to put aside our differences and really focus on our commonalities,” said keynote speaker and U.S. Congressman Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, before the event. “We all share the same concerns about getting Americans back to work.”

Carson, the second Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, spoke before the event.

During Ramadan, observant Muslims fast during daylight hours, pray and perform acts of charity, doing everything with the intention of becoming closer to God.

It is observed from Aug. 11 to Sept. 10 this year.

Some Muslims, though, are concerned that those who make a point of mingling with other cultures aren’t the ones to worry about, especially in light of a Pew Research Center opinion poll.

Released earlier this week, it showed that 50 percent of the respondents weren’t in favor of an Islamic center and mosque going up near the World Trade Center and one in four said local communities should be able to prohibit mosques.

“(Anti-Muslim sentiments) have not gotten better,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Michigan. “They’re worse now than they were in 2008 when there was a lot of anti-Muslim vitriol spewed by pundits and bloggers.”

His advice is for Muslims to seek out different cultures in their everyday experiences, such as parent-teacher associations and neighborhood organizations.

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