Religions and Spirituality

Edison: Community Members Gather For Annual Ramadan Dinner, Address Acts of Violence in Orlando

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Credits: Kenneth Downey photo
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EDISON, NJ -  About 200 community members gathered at the Royal Albert’s Palace in Edison, Wednesday evening for the American Muslim Council’s fifth Annual Grand Interfaith Ramadan Dinner.

The holiday, Ramadan, is observed in the Muslim faith. It begins on the ninth month during the Islamic calendar. This year, Ramadan began on the evening of June 5, and will last until the evening of July 5.

Throughout the month, anyone who is observing the holiday fasts from sunrise to sundown.

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The American Muslim Council’s annual dinner consisted of many prestigious guests including State Senators Sam Thompson, Linda Greenstein, and Patrick Deignan.

“Peace to all of you. I wish all of you a blessed Ramadan,” said Sen. Greenstein, D-14. “This event is wonderful, I have been coming her for many years. I feel that any interfaith event is very great for the entire community. All communities- Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim- and your community seems to do very well in these events. Everyone is here to celebrate together, and to celebrate peace. And that is what all of our religions have in common. All of the religions are religions of peace. You always find the occasional person here and there, but the religions themselves are about peace. No man is an island, no man stands alone, and that includes women too. We certainly do need to stand together, and I know that whatever happens in our community, including the horrible event that happened in Orlando, we are all going to stand together in solidarity. We are going to do the right thing and support each other. We will support each other with friends and brothers and sisters.”

Due to the tragic events this past weekend in Orlando, Florida, Dr. Ali Chaudry, President of the American Muslim Council, held a candlelight vigil and moment of silence before dinner began.

Each guest was given a small electronic candle to light inside the enormous banquet hall. The lights were dimmed, and a moment of silence began as each guest said a prayer for the victims in Orlando.

Dr. Chaudry gave a statement on behalf of the American Muslim Council, “Muslims of New Jersey express our profound shock and sorrow and condemn the murder of 49 innocent people and injuring of another 53 in Orlando, Florida. We wish them all our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families whose loved ones have been taken away so tragically. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased and the living. This individual and perpetrator of such a horrendous crime does not represent Islam, or Muslims in any sense. In Islam we know that we call for peace and mercy love, tolerance and helping others. As the Koran states, ‘whoever kills a person, it is as though they killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life; it is as though they saved all mankind.’ Hate, bigotry, and violence are our common enemy. When you accept the hate and anger, it leads to this kind of act of violence. We as American Muslims condemn the worst act of mass shooting in U.S. history in the strongest possible way. As Americans, we reiterate our commitment to peace, safety, and security of others, as well as our solidarity to fellow Americans. And we pray for the safety and security of all of us.”

At precisely 8:29 p.m., Imam Nizam Ahmed Raouf Zaman, led the guests in prayer before the break fast dinner could begin. Once the prayer concluded, everyone in attendance was directed to the back on the banquet hall and greeted with an arrangement of food served through a buffet.

Plates were filled when the speakers began again.

South Brunswick Board of Education member, Azra Baig, addressed the large group of people before her in the room, speaking about compassion and warmth during the holiday.

“As –salaam-alaikum. Greetings of Peace. It is such a beautiful sight to see people of various faiths-Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and others coming together as a united community in celebration of the month of Ramadan or the month of fasting,” said Baig. “During this holy month, Muslims fast from before sunrise until sunset and it is a time for increased spirituality, self-discipline, strength, peace, love, generosity and compassion. Tonight I would like to focus on compassion, a quality one is to possess in all matters but especially during the month of Ramadan.”

“Muslims welcomed the month with compassion as friends and family greeted each other with warm hugs and smiles, and or a nice text or Facebook Post sharing Ramadan greetings of peace and blessings wishing each other ‘Happy Ramadan’ and ‘Ramadan Mubarak.’ It is an emotionally uplifting experience as the sacred month commences. 

While one fasts, being restricted from not eating or drinking, one is reminded of what the less fortunate and needy endure. Muslims are encouraged and obligated to take care of the less fortunate, during this month through monetary donations, contribution of clothes, food and other necessities. Muslims are obligated to give a small percentage (2.5 percent) of their savings annually and many choose to give during this month since the reward for good deeds are elevated. Taking care of each other especially the needy demonstrates having compassion.” 

She said increased acts of kindness are encouraged during the month and could include inviting friends to breakfast with you by sharing a plate of food, a box of donuts or candy with neighbors, friends and or co-workers.

“Sharing a meal shows the love and respect one has for another,” she said. “In my experience, my friends, neighbors and colleagues have enjoyed and appreciated having pakoras-fried fritters, cookies and or chocolate. Acts of kindness can go a long way and it is a simple way to show compassion. 

“In the past week of Ramadan we have experienced the death and funeral of the great beloved American hero Muhammad Ali. He embodied love and compassion and the world displayed their compassion with thousands and thousands attending his funeral proceedings. With thousands lining the streets throwing flowers on the hearse and chanting “Ali” it was amazing to see the magnitude of compassion. 

“And now in the last several days, we have witnessed the horrific attack in Orlando, Florida. There has been an outpouring of compassion from across America and around the world. Some of these actions of compassion, many lead by Muslims, include prayers for the victims and their loved ones, statements of condemnation, gatherings with candle light vigils as we have tonight, fundraising efforts for the victims  raising thousands of dollars and the donation of blood. A friend from the NJ Muslim community actually flew down a couple of days to Orlando and donated blood. This was incredibly kind and tremendous display of compassion. With this tragedy one can see the heartfelt concern and compassion for humanity. So as the month of Ramadan continues, Muslims are encouraged to possess the best of qualities including the quality of compassion.  I will leave you with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: ‘the simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful then a thousand heads bowing in prayer.’”

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