Monday, 23 October 2017

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Local Muslim community shares event for holy month

By Eryn Dion, For Panama City News Herald, On 09 June 2017, Read Original

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“We hope by the end of tonight you’ll get a glimpse of the contributions that American Muslims make to America,” al-Yahia said. “America’s strength stems from its diversity.”

PANAMA CITY BEACH — The Bay County Islamic Society (BCIS) and hundreds of members of the community gathered Tuesday night at the Bay Point Sheraton to celebrate the most “special time of the year” for the Muslim community — the holy month of Ramadan.

“When something is as special to you as Ramadan is to us, the greatest pleasure is in sharing it with others,” Lamia Arafa, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd.

 

Held on the 11th day of the Islamic holiday in which Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, Sharing Ramadan was meant as a way to showcase the diversity of both the Muslim community and Bay County as a whole. Dr. Musab al-Yahia, vice president of BCIS, said local organizations and people would “always find an ally waiting” for them at the Bay County Islamic Society.

“We hope by the end of tonight you’ll get a glimpse of the contributions that American Muslims make to America,” al-Yahia said. “America’s strength stems from its diversity.”

While Ramadan is a time of reflection and prayer meant to foster solidarity among Muslims across the globe, the night was not entirely serious. Hiba Rahim, the Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR-FL) Northwest Regional coordinator, joked that finally, after 13 years of holding the Sharing Ramadan event, BCIS would reveal the truth about “what Ramadan really is.”

“The fact is, when we start, we often tell our community, ‘May the odds ever be in your favor,’ ” Rahim said to laughter from the audience. “Ramadan is when the true ‘Hunger Games’ begin.”

Most of the night’s speakers focused on common ties between Islam and other religions and the need for unity, compassion and service to make the country great.

“What makes America great is this gathering right here,” said Hassan Shibly, director of CAIR-FL. “It is our diversity.”

During the event, BCIS also recognized the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Unity Spiritual Center of Panama City with the Sharing Ramadan Friendship Award for their partnership with the local Muslim community.