Every year for the past 1,394 years, 1.6 billion Muslims around the world welcome the start of Ramadan, the holiest month in Muslim calendar. Those believers who can fast aim to cleanse the body and tame the ego by refraining from eating or drinking from dawn to dusk for 30 days.
It’s vital to do this annual “religious detox,” as some call it. But many people, including even the most pious Muslims, don’t realize that Ramadan is also a time to cleanse the soul, so-to-speak, by contemplation.
Arriving only days after the horrific terrorist attack during Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena on May 22, this year’s Ramadan delivers Muslims a deep heartache to contemplate: the alleged perpetrator who took 22 young and innocent lives, many of them children, is thought to be a Muslim man.
Ann Coulters of the West believe that Islam is a backwards and barbaric religion that is inherently linked with terrorism. This sort of hateful rhetoric is extremely hurtful for Muslim communities, not to mention counter productive.
Most of these right-wing provocateurs and their supporters in America don’t know or care that there are millions of Muslims who would neither endorse violence nor believe that any cause justifies killing anyone in the name of religion.
I am a naturalized Muslim British citizen and have a teenage daughter who was a fan of Ariana Grande. Although Manchester is far from London where our family used to live ― and is now headed by a Muslim mayor ― I can easily associate with the shock of non-Muslims who lost their beloved child, mother, father, relative, boyfriend, or girlfriend in these attacks. My country of origin, Turkey, has greatly suffered from terrorist bombings and shootings in recent years, as well.
I also can relate to the Muslims in Manchester, who make up 15 percent of the city’s 2.5 million people, and others anywhere around the world, who are afraid to be the first ones to take the step towards an honest discussion with angry non-Muslims.
Food is even more sacred when shared by family and friends. This Ramadan, we must try to reach out to our non-Muslim neighbors and invite them to iftar ― breaking of the fast. We must assure them that we are united with them in grief every time an atrocity like this happens.
Islam puts great emphasis on conscience and sincerity. We must explain in simple terms to those who suspect every Muslim is a potential terrorist that a true Muslim is one in whom abides, in the depths of his or her heart, the very concept of conscience, respect for law, and care for human life and the harmony and stability of the society.
We must also remind ourselves that we share part of the blame if we remain silent and don’t protest when Islam is hijacked by radicals in the name of faith in our society. Only then, those innocent girls who tragically perished in Manchester, or Muslim girls in bombings in Syria for that matter, will not have died in vain.
May you have a blessed and reflective Ramadan and may you experience, and promote peace in your own soul, in your community and across the world.
This piece was first published in Auburn Voices, a media platform for the multifaith movement for social justice. — Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.