Ramadan is meant to be a time when we are compelled to be at our best.
It is a time for reflection, when we strive to overcome our weaknesses.
It is a time for prayer, beseeching God to guide us on the right path.
It is a time to overcome temptation, lest we stray.
It is a time to be charitable towards our fellow human beings, to love our neighbor as we would love ourselves,
It is a time when the best in us prevails.
It didn’t work for Omar Mateen, the alleged killer in the Orlando shooting.
Nothing worked for him. Not the religion of peace, not the month of Ramadan.
A lost soul, his heart was sealed, his eyes blinded.
50 people dead.
America in mourning.
Even the holy month of Ramadan couldn’t stop him.
A moment of silence was observed at the annual iftar of the Muslim Community Network (MCN) in New York, a gathering that was intended to celebrate MCN’s remarkable achievements. We sat at our tables in mourning. Speaker after speaker, their prepared speeches set aside, had shifted their attention to the aggrieved families. Muslims who had gathered to break their fast, wondered how the aftermath would affect them. “We will not let hate divide us,” Debbie Almontaser made an impassioned call.
There was a rustle in the crowd, heads turned towards the door. The mayor of New York had walked into the ballroom. It was an unannounced arrival. His towering figure loomed large and strong as he strode up to the dais, his hand on the pulse. Mayor Bill de Blasio did not mince words, and said it as he saw it. “Every terrorist attack is an effort to undermine us . . . . we need to stand together with the LGBT community . . . we condemn any retaliation that propagates hatred”, he said, naming a particular presidential candidate’s remarks, ostracizing the Muslims. In that moment, as the Muslims were expressing solidarity with the LGBT community, the Mayor of New York was standing by the Muslim community. The spirit of Ramadan had embraced us all.
There were tears. Christina Tasca, Executive Director of MCN, choked up with emotion when she introduced the organization that always, always, comes to the aid of the Muslim community whenever they are under attack—Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). I leaned forward as the JFREJ leadership stood in line to accept the honor. “Hate is killing us slowly at a rapid speed. . . .we have your backs and you have ours . . . mourn and continue to organize—now—now is always when. We must be a Muhammad Ali.” Khalid stood up and people rose to give our cousins in faith a standing gesture of thanks.
We walked out into the cool night, shaken into resolve. We will mourn and continue to organize. We will push back. Hate will not prevail. Ramadan is more than an exercise in spiritual cleansing; it’s a higher calling. Today, we stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Hillel