During Ramadan, U.S. Muslims get to know the neighbors

If you’re joining worshipers at the Islamic Society of Orange County for iftar, you’ll be enticed by the aromas of many different types of cuisine.

During Ramadan, the mosque offers free meals at sunset, and “a lot of the larger community are invited to that, a lot of our friends from different faiths, our neighbors,” said Duaa Alwan, a board member of the society, in an interview with Voice of America.

“You have Pakistani food, you have Indian food, you have Middle Eastern, you have Italian food, you have Mexican food, and it really reflects the diversity that our community shares,” she said.

The mosque, in a multiethnic neighborhood near Los Angeles, has erected a canopy in the courtyard, where congregants gather for prayers and enjoy iftar together. Similar rituals are shared by Muslims worldwide.

For many Muslims in the U.S., Ramadan also involves outreach to non-Muslims, and the Islamic Society of Orange County embraces that practice.

There are more than 2,000 mosques in the United States, almost half in New York, California or Texas. The Islamic Society of Orange County, founded in 1976, has almost 7,000 worshippers and is believed to be one of the largest Muslim centers in the Western Hemisphere.

Shaykh Mustafa Umar, who has delivered sermons there, told Voice of America that the Ramadan fast helps Muslims appreciate what they might otherwise take for granted. But Ramadan also prompts Muslims to revive friendships and forge community ties, he said, “so it is kind of a mixture of worshipping God and … having a good time, and realizing … the blessings that you have in this life.”

This year, Ramadan began the evening of June 5 and continues through July 5.

Learn more about Ramadan in America, and discover how American Muslims live their faith and serve their communities.