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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

What Does It Mean When Muslims Invite Non-Muslims to Participate in Ramadan?

Sharing the religious festivals of others is an American tradition. We all have done it. Jews accept invitations to Christmas Dinner, Christians go to Seder Feasts and Bar Mitzvahs, Christians and Jews attend Hindu Festival of Lights, and even atheists are invited to these events and joyously attend for the fellowship and to learn about the customs and rituals of others. When Muslims invite non-believers to participate in the month-long Ramadan Fast, most non-believers are unaware of the significance of their participation. Instead of joyous fellowship, Muslims are actually using this moment as an opportunity to teach about Ramadan and for D'awa, calling people to become Muslims, the central purpose of Islam.

Many non-believers participate in the rituals of other religions for political correctness , to show how tolerant they are. Certainly religious tolerance is an admirable trait, but would they be so tolerant if they knew that that Muslim tolerance of other religious rituals is not reciprocated? Ask any practicing Muslim to attend Christmas Dinner, a Seder Feast, Bar Mitzvah, or even wish them Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, send them a Christmas Card, and the response will be one of rejection, for Muslims are not permitted to participate in the religious rituals of others, not even by offering a greeting. Thus, it is inconceivable that the claim that Islam is a religion of peace, or that Islam is tolerant of other religions could be taken seriously.

Ramadan is a period of time during which Muslims reflect. This is supposed to be the purpose of fasting during the day. During the entire month, large amounts of food and drink are available, and feasting goes on after sundown. Muslims children are not expected to ritually fast or to observe other restrictions, but at a certain point in their lives, girls are expected to don the hijab, the sexes are segregated, and all are expected to fast. What happens if a restriction is not observed or the fast is broken by a young person. Unfortunately the penalty is severe. Both sexual impurity and the breaking of the Ramadan fast can result in corporal punishment that leads to death. It is hard to believe that either of these are worthy of a death sentence. Muslims are very serious about ritual and ritual punishment. Non-Muslims are invited to participate in the Ramadan feasting and are given information about the beauty of Islam, but they are not told about the dark side, the side that results in beheadings for changing your mind, or stoning or honor killing for a sexual indiscretion, or a lethal flogging that results in death for breaking the Ramadan fast.

The next time you are invited to send an Eid card to congratulate Muslims on their holidays, remember that they won't send you a Christmas or Hanukkah card or won't even wish you Merry Christmas. Next time you are invited to a Ramadan feast, think about the consequences of breaking the fast if you decide to become a Muslim. Remember all the things that they don't tell you and ask yourself why.


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