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‘Extending our hands in friendship’: In celebration of Ramadan, Islamic Center to host interfaith dinner on Saturday

May 24, 2018

The Islamic Center of Winona is hosting an interfaith dinner Saturday at sundown — a chance for both Muslims and non-Muslims to recognize the holy month of Ramadan.

From mid-May to mid-June, Muslims are fasting from sunrise to sunset in an effort to refrain from sinful behavior and to renew their faith in Islam. Saturday’s dinner will allow the broader community to learn more about Islam and to connect with local Muslims, mosque leaders say.

The event has been popular among local residents. Hamid Quraishi, imam at the Islamic Center, said the guest list is already full.

“Sharing is very important to us, so we asked people to come and break fast with us,” Quraishi said. “For Muslims, Ramadan is a very blessed month. We try our best to do worship, and we try our best to do charity and other good things for the people around us. It doesn’t matter what religion you are.”

Ramadan is akin to Lent in the Christian faith and Elul in the Jewish faith.

In this holy month, Muslims turn away from sin and indulgence during daylight hours, focusing instead on worship, charity and community.

“You’re not just fasting with your body. You’re fasting with your eyes and your ears too,” Quraishi said. “You see people drop activities -- no more watching TV, or going to the movie theater, or going to play golf. There’s no nonsense, no looking at anyone with bad intentions, no saying anything bad.”

Ahmed El-Afandi, a trustee at the Islamic Center, said it’s important for Muslims to introduce the broader community to their faith and practices. Understanding, he said, is a good base for friendships and partnerships.

“The invitation is to introduce ourselves to our neighbors, to get to know each other,” he said. “We’re extending our hands in friendship and accepting friendship from others.”

Ramadan, according to Quraishi and El-Afandi, is more than a single month of fasting and performing good deeds. Muslims strive to carry their renewed mindset through the rest of the year, they said, recognizing that they have the power and a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate.

“We get to break our fast every day at sunset,” El-Afandi said. “For those who are less fortunate, some of them do not have a sunset.”

While the dinner on Saturday is booked to capacity, the public is invited to visit the Islamic Center throughout the year.

Those who plan to attend the dinner are also invited to a presentation by Regina Mustafa, founder of the Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam. Her talk, which focuses on the role of women in Islam, begins at 7 p.m. Saturday.