Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ramadan in the U.S.

Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, is the time where the whole family gathers around a table full of delicious food and waits for sunset so they can start eating. Spending this month alone in a foreign country is considered unusual, however in my case it was a different experience.

On my first day, and here I mean literally my first day in the U.S., I received a compliment by a lady on Park Street in Boston while I was looking for a bank to open an account. The lady told me, "I like your scarf." I maybe have to mention here that I wear a head scarf, or as we call it, a Hijab. I was happy thinking that I have beautiful taste. But three weeks later, I received exactly the same compliment three times. On all three times I was wearing a different scarf. I realized that it is not a matter of taste, but rather a message to express the understanding and integration of different cultures, which I clearly felt later in school too.

In October of 2012, we had a religious holiday "Eid", and I was looking for a Masjed (Mosque) where I could celebrate this holiday. I was referred to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (the ISBCC). It was a large beautiful Masjed with typical Islamic architecture including a dome and minaret. The Masjed was full of Muslim Americans who looked fully integrated, with an additional piece of cloth that women put on their heads. The majority of them spoke only English. They did not speak the language of their ancestors and they were learning Arabic as a second language. I decided to spend my time in this place during the holy month of Ramadan.

Since I am not home, but alone here in the United States, I spent the evenings at the ISBCC. It was a good opportunity for me to be in a spiritual atmosphere during Ramadan, meet students from different schools, eat delicious food at the coffee shop at the center, and have nice conversations with people.

Manal Benrajab is a Libyan Fulbright grantee pursuing an MBA at University of Massachusetts-Boston. 

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