A celebratory feast, or Iftar, is traditional to mark the end of Muslims’ sunup-to-sundown fast during the month of Ramadan, but the dinner Sunday evening at the Islamic Center of Middle Georgia in Centerville added many more places at the table.
“We are expecting between 80 and 100 people,” said Imam Adam Fofana. “That includes 60 percent Muslims and 40 percent non-Muslims.”
Invitations were sent out to many prominent non-Muslim members of the community, including the mayors and police chiefs of Centerville and Warner Robins, the office of U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, and pastors of several local churches. About 30 of those invited had confirmed plans to attend, Fofana said Sunday afternoon.
Also invited were the families of five Muslims on active duty service with the military, he said.
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Ramadan, which this year runs from Aug. 1-30, is more than a time of fasting, Fofana said; it’s also a time for deeper reflection, gratitude for what you have and concern for the less fortunate.
Non-Muslims have been invited to share the Iftar meal at the Islamic Center before, but this is the first time the group has made it so public, he said.
“We do this every year, but in this particular year instead of inviting our friends individually, we decided to invite them together,” Fofana said.
It’s part of a wider effort to let people get to know the center’s members and what they preach, and show unity with the community, he said.
That takes on deeper meaning at a dinner held just three weeks before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Shortly after that tragedy, President George W. Bush invited a group of Muslim leaders to the White House in a show of solidarity; and Aug. 10, President Barack Obama held an Iftar dinner at the White House during which he paid tribute to Muslims killed in the attacks: passengers on the planes, workers in the World Trade Center and emergency workers. Obama also thanked Muslims in the U.S. military who have served since then, saying that America must go forward as “one family.”
“This is in line with that spirit,” Fofana said.
The Iftar meal traditionally starts with dates and water, and a prayer, he said.
“We believe God will be listening to you more than any time, at the breaking of the fast,” Fofana said.
After that, however, guests would have a truly multicultural selection to choose from, all made by the center’s members: American, Indonesian, Indian, Pakistani, Mediterranean, even Chinese, he said.
“The community is very diverse, and we urged everyone to cook their ‘home’ food and to bring it,” Fofana said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.