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Muslims unite at St. Louis City Hall for historic Iftar

By J.A. Salaam -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: May 29, 2019 - 3:13:28 PM

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Faizan Syed, director of CAIR -Missouri, St. Louis Alderman John C. Muhammad and Muslims from different communities.

ST. LOUIS—The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Missouri) and St. Louis City Alderman John C. Muhammad collaborated on the first annual Iftar, the breaking of the fast meal during the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan in the rotunda of city hall.

Approximately 100 people attended the historic occasion on May 7, including elected officials and representatives of more than 16 mosques in the St. Louis area. Every year 1.4 billion Muslims observe the holy month of fasting and abstain from drink and food during the day-light hours and servicing and providing assistance to people who are less fortunate. Muslims are encouraged to increase their prayers, acts of charity and good will during Ramadan which this year commenced May 6.

Alderman John C. Muhammad is a member of the Nation of Islam and one of the youngest politicians in the city of St. Louis. He has challenged the status quo of St. Louis politics ever since taking office in 2017.

In May 2017 Ald. Muhammad sponsored a resolution the St. Louis Board of Alderman adopted that officially recognized Ramadan. “The City of St. Louis is home to over 10,000 Muslims. Those who came to celebrate the commencing of this holy month served as a sign that Muslims have a role in both the political and social fabric of our community and it is time for the city of St. Louis to recognize the importance and significance Islam plays in everyday society,” said Ald. Muhammad.

St. Louis has become a central location in the United States for diverse immigrant populations including Muslims, Asians, Hispanics and Africans. It is home to the second largest Bosnian population outside of Europe. Faizan Syed is director of CAIR in Missouri, one of 38 chapters of the organization across the United States.

“This historic Iftar was an amazing opportunity for people of other faiths, community leaders, also Muslims of diversity to come together to share in the breaking of the fast meal. I want to be honest with you, since I’ve been in St. Louis we’ve done events with the immigrant community and with the African American brothers and sisters. I think this is the first event where we actually came together in a meaningful way,” said Mr. Syed.

“I’ve been to events where Pakistanis or Indians will invite one Black brother to come and speak and that’s nothing,” he said. “This was really powerful, and I hope that this type of true collaboration will continue in the future.”

Several speakers addressed the audience until it was time to break the fast that evening. Imam Jihad of Masjid Al-Mu’Minun Islamic Center, called the Adhan (call to prayer) signaling it was time to break the daily fast. When it was time to break the fast, dates and water were distributed. Food was set up by the Fruit of Islam (FOI), the men of the Nation of Islam. Muslims went upstairs to pray and some guests went with them to observe.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner gave salutations to the participants of “Ramadan Mubarak,” which translated means “Blessed Ramadan.” Nursultan Sargashkaev from Kyrgyzstan said, the Iftar was his first since arriving in the United States six months ago. Seeing so many people coming together eating and chatting was like a big family to him. “So many people, so many nations and I really love to see when people are coming here. It’s beautiful Ramadan, yes I love it,” said Mr. Sargashkaev.

“It’s about peace. It’s about recognizing all of the different cultures as well as religions,” said Atty. Gardner.

“I think this is what our community needs and how we come together. Ramadan is about peace, unity and self-reflection and a spiritual oneness with God,” she added.

Djilali Kacem, imam of Masjid Dar-Al-Jalal of St. Louis, is originally from Algeria in North Africa and told The Final Call his experience was a blessing and that he was happy to see Muslims in leadership.

“This actually was the first time since I’ve been in America for 30 years or so that I was invited to city hall for a Ramadan recognition. I’m feeling good because we’re all different groups of Muslims that live in the metropolitan area, which is a blessing. I also am happy to see one of us, a Muslim, the young man (John C. Muhammad) taking the initiative, taking the lead,” said Imam Kacem.

“It’s time for the Muslims to start taking the initiatives not just to follow and to react but to lead. I think that’s a good man who should be one of the leaders … in the future. He has a great future and he needs our support,” he added.

“I have been a member of the Islamic community for 47 years now. I was a teenager and now a senior citizen and I’ve been striving hard under the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Minister Louis Farrakhan and Imam Warith Deen Muhammad and I continue to struggle,” said Muslim pioneer Fareedah Sidiqui,

She reflected on her many years as a Muslim and the beauty of being present that evening. “I have helped establish masjids and to bring the people to Al-Islam. We are one and for us to be having Iftar in city hall with Muslims, Christians, Jews, and the Asian community here as well. It shows that the striving is still going on but you can see the results of what we have been doing and we cannot stop now,” she said.