Minnesota mosques invite non-Muslims to break bread during Ramadan

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SHAFAQNA - Curious about Ramadan? Fifteen Minnesota mosques are opening their doors to non-Muslims during this holy month, inviting folks for an evening meal and a chance to ask any and all questions about Muslim life.

It’s a spinoff of the interfaith dialogues that have long existed between Christian and Muslim leaders in the Twin Cities. But the Ramadan interfaith dinners, running through July 13, are for ordinary people with ordinary questions — both serious and secular.

“We could spend our time talking about the Six Articles of Faith [in Islam], but the average Christian doesn’t really care that much,” said Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, a co-sponsor of the “Taking Heart” project.

Guests discuss those religious topics, he said, but “people often wind up talking about baseball or Vikings versus the Packers.” And that is just fine, he said, as it’s a natural way to build relationships.

About 40 percent of the people attending the Ramadan dinners had never spoken to a Muslim, said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, the events’ co-sponsor. Christians tend to identify with people of similar values and faith, she said. Having dinner with a Muslim is an unusual opportunity.

The project was tested with limited success a decade ago, when it was offered on different dates. But coordinating the dinner with the month of Ramadan dramatically boosted interest by both mosques and the public, Zaman said. Muslims fast from dawn to sunset during this holy month, and the meal that breaks the fast in the evening has long been a time to spend with family and friends. It was a logical fit.

This year, mosques in the Twin Cities, its suburbs and Duluth are participating. Organizers are expecting even more than the 600 people who signed on last year. Anyone interested in attending must sign up in advance. Locations and times are available at the Minnesota Council of Churches website.

 

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