SHAFAQNA – Every Ramadan, Republican lawmaker Dan Kildee prepares to observe one day of fasting with his staff during the holy month, the tradition which has brought the office closer.
“It’s something we kind of look forward to now,” Kildee said.
“It’s a good way to understand one another, to at least take a moment to experience the ritual.”
The tradition started when the Michigan Democrat was working during his election campaign for Congress in 2012.
Working around the clock, he realized that one of his Washington DC staffers, Ghada Alkiek, was keeping up while fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“It’s, like, 18-hour days and, at one point we said we have to try this,” Kildee, 57, said.
Kildee and several non-Muslim staffers fasted with her for one day of Ramadan that year, not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.
They have continued the tradition in Washington, and Kildee’s entire office fasts with Alkiek, now a staff assistant, for one day of Ramadan, a month when adherents strive to purge their sins and cleanse their spirit.
This year, they choose Monday, June 20, the second longest day in Ramadan to fast.
They woke up at 4 am and shared photos of the early breakfast, or suhoor.
Staffers shared words of encouragement and videos about the meaning of Ramadan.
“We’re counting down the hours together,” Alkiek said, adding that the ritual has brought the office closer together.
“It’s really special to know that your whole team is fasting with you.”
She hosted Kildee’s office at her home Monday evening for “iftar,” with roughly 40 people breaking their fast with dates, soup and a full meal.
Representing the Flint area’s sizable Arab-American community in Congress, the tradition has taken on an added significance during the 2016 election cycle, especially after anti-Muslim comments by presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.
“You can’t hate up close,” Kildee said of Trump’s “ignorance.”
“When you get to know somebody,” he added, “you realize how similar we are.”