D.C. ‘Love Over Hate’ Iftar Counters Stereotypes about Muslims

As Islamophobia continues to fester in the United States, local faith-based groups came together last week at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Northeast in a show of solidarity with their Muslim neighbors.

The June 5 gathering was part of “The United States of Love Over Hate: A Ramadan Supper Series,” coordinated by Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a national organization of interfaith, faith-based and religious organizations dedicated to ending anti-Muslim bigotry. The organization was founded in November 2010 and over 20 faith groups are engaged in their work.

For this series, the organization identified, provided support and connected individuals across the country to participate in an iftar in their community open to people who were not Muslim. The goal is to build relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims. They also provided guidance and support to plan an iftar at home or in their community.

During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims fast from sunup to sundown, then come together at mosques or homes while others are festive and larger gatherings. An iftar is a meal Muslims eat in the evening at the end of their daily Ramadan fast.

The event featured a Qur’an recitation, a musical performance and a panel discussion on being a Muslim in the United States.

Hanan Sied, a young Muslim woman who is an artist and aspiring journalist, gave a spoken-word performance. The poem, “That’s Not a Religion,” she wrote in high school describes the discrimination she faced because of her faith and the stereotypes of Muslims in the media.

Sied said her desire to become a journalist is fueled by the media’s potential role in countering the biases against Islam. She aims to better the influence news stories have on public opinion of Muslims by reporting stories from various perspectives.

A call to prayer by Imam Zia from MakeSpace, an organization that focuses on building an inclusive community of compassionate and empowered American Muslims in the D.C. area.

Guests broke the fast with dates and water before a buffet-style meal catered by Dolan Uyghyr, a Chinese halal restaurant in Northwest. Cards were placed on the tables to guide the conversation, prompting attendees to share a time when fasting or a spiritual practice brought them strength.

Non-Muslims were also invited to pray with the Muslims or observe in a separate room.

The interfaith iftar was hosted by Shoulder to Shoulder in partnership with MakeSpace, Good Neighbors, Hill Havurah, the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, the Islamic Society of North America and the Jewish Community Relations Council.

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