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This is the link to the story at my site.
This is the link to the newspaper the story was in. I don't know how long it
will be available at this link.
It's a newspaper article that was in today's Dispatch. It's about Ramadan but
shows a picture of my husband and me, which will enable American non-Muslims to
see that Islam isn't just a religion for Arabs. It also tells about why I
reverted to Islam, and shows that Islam isn't the strict and unbending religion
that some non-Muslims think it is.
December 7, 2002
Ramadan Teaches Restraint, Patience
By Leon Lagerstam, Staff writer
Ramadan, a month-long Islamic fast, ends with a new moon, and hopefully a new
A lot of rage, anger, oppression and talk of war is heard around the world, but
Ramadan seeks to replace aggressive thoughts and behaviors with ideals of peace
and charity, according to Imad Benjelloun, prayer leader and chairman of the
Islamic Center of the Quad Cities.
"Ramadan is all about abstaining from doing what is wrong, and training oneself
to do what is righteous," he said.
Ramadan is the month of the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain
from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from dawn to sunset, according to
materials provided by the center. It ended with the sight of a new moon earlier
Members of the Quad-Cities Muslim community gathered Friday night at the Clarion
Hotel in Davenport for an "Eid ul-Fitr" fast-breaking feast. Muslims worldwide
observe Ramadan and its concluding feast.
Demographers say Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions, estimating about
1.2 billion Muslims exist in the world, including seven million in America. The
Quad-Cities Muslim community totals several hundred people, but less than 1,000,
Mr. Benjelloun said.
Some people were worried about how Ramadan would fit into the picture of
instability and insecurity in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and the turmoil
and unrest seen around the world, he said.
However, no negative impact was seen locally, Mr. Benjelloun said. In fact,
people from the community have asked many more questions about Ramadan and Islam
since the terrorist tragedies, "and we're reaching out more and making many
bridges," he said.
"The numbers of people converting to Islam have skyrocketed since 9/11," said
Khadija Evans of East Moline. She and her husband, Muhammad Evans, were among
"I converted Dec. 11 last year, which was about halfway through Ramadan, so I
didn't fulfill the obligations, and didn't understand it yet," Mrs. Evans said.
Since then, she's learned to read the Quran and prayers in Arabic and studied
her new faith, saying it has answered many more questions she had in her life,
making it fuller, and giving her a clearer understanding of the purpose of her
"After 9/11, the media were saying a lot of things portraying Islam in a
negative light," she said. "After reading many different things and looking it
up on the Internet, I came to the conclusion the media were wrong, and I came to
realize Islam was the true religion, and, in my heart, I knew I had to convert."
Medical conditions, however, prevented her from observing Ramadan fasting
requirements this month. Exemptions are granted for a variety of reasons,
including medical ones. Other exemptions are given to children, menstruating or
pregnant women, nursing mothers, mentally incapacitated people, elderly folks
and travelers journeying more than 50 miles.
Those people have to either make up the fast on other dates or donate money to
feed the hungry, Mrs. Evans said. She and her husband previously worked at the
River Bend Food Bank, so they chose to donate to local hunger efforts.
"Ramadan helps you care about people," Mr. Benjelloun said. "It reminds you that
other people are hungry and are suffering, and it pushes you to contribute more.
It really contributes to solving a big problem in society -- narrowing the gap
between the poor and healthy."
A lot of fundraising takes place during Ramadan, he said, and "Muslims tend to
give money from the bottom of their heart."
Mr. Benjelloun compared Ramadan to a "training station."
"It trains a person to be patient and righteous,'' he said. ``It trains you to
be a better person in your family and in your community, and to be a better
servant to God the Almighty."
He summarized Ramadan's importance by using the term "taqua," which he says
means to be "on guard."
"Basically, you must be on guard in every action you perform in your life," Mr.
Benjelloun said. "Before you do anything, you need to make sure it pleases God
the Almighty, and if it pleases God, it won't hurt anyone."
Ramadan focuses on individual human beings, he said. If a human being learns to
restrain himself from making wrong decisions, it carries on through his family,
community and country, and could make the planet Earth entirely peaceful, he
World peace, however, is unlikely, when 100 people try to destroy what one
person is trying to build, Mr. Benjelloun said.
"Our world lacks justice everywhere, especially at the international level,''
said Moutaz Kotob of Bettendorf. Many people don't realize that Muslims actually
believe in "justice for all," he said.
Giving presentations at schools, churches and organizations help reduce such
misunderstandings, making it easier to know and live with each other, Mr. Kotob
Living in the Quad-Cities makes it easier to practice her faith, Mrs. Evans
"In other parts of the country, there have been attacks on people," she said.
"I'm lucky to live in this area. I'm not sure whether it's a case of tolerance,
but I think it's actually more of a case of acceptance."
The worst she's heard from people are comments under their breath, but said she
felt sorry for them, not angry.
Mr. Benjelloun admits some Muslims may have forgotten what Ramadan is really
about, saying "you'll always find people who are not going to do what they are
supposed to be doing, but generally, people do know what it is and act
Ramadan, he said, is one of the "five pillars" of Islam. Not eating or drinking
is not the goal of Ramadan, Mr. Benjelloun said. "It's just a means. If you can
train yourself not to eat or drink, you can train yourself some patience. If you
have patience, you have power to be a better person in the community and to God
Friday's fast-breaking feast "celebrates all the righteous acts and good
behaviors we have been able to train ourselves during the month of Ramadan," he
It's one of two big feasts for Muslims, Mr. Benjelloun said. The other one "Eid
Adha" celebrates the pilgrimage to Mecca, scheduled two months and 10 days after
Taken from QCOnline.com
Corrections to this article. I embraced Islam on December 1, 2001, and not on
December 11, 2001. I do not at this time read the Qur'an in Arabic.