My American Ramadan
Each year hundreds of youth, teachers, students, and professionals from around the Muslim world participate in IREX training programs in the U.S. Observing Ramadan in the U.S. can be both a challenge and an opportunity for many of these participants. In honor of Eid, we asked current and past students of the Global UGRAD-Pakistan program about their experiences of Ramadan in the U.S.
Ferya: "Ramadan in the U.S. was the best one I have had so far. The best thing was that for the first time, I got to meet Muslims from other countries. I ate different food from various Muslim countries. In Pakistan, women don’t go to mosque at all but in the U.S., I spent so much time there. I heard my first Friday’s khutba in the U.S.
“The thing I really liked about the community I was living in was their openness towards Muslims. Every day, many non-Muslims would visit the mosque and break fast and offer prayers with us.”
Anum: “While the spiritual aspect of the experience remained preserved, rather was all the more invigorating, the cultural dimension was missing. Eating alone was the biggest challenge of all; being alone during morning and evening meals made me crave company. However, things improved remarkably once my college administration provided me with rides to and from the Islamic Centre of Rochester. Eating and praying at the Centre created a semblance of Ramadan back home, the only difference being that the feel of Ramadan at the Centre was much more multicultural.
“I was surprised by how concerned my college administration was about the fact that the spiritual experience associated with the Month was by no means compromised. The dining facilities at my host institute took up extra work and very generously offered to prepare halal meals for me although they were under no such obligation. A refrigerator was moved to my room in order to ensure that I ate fresh.”
Khizra: “People here know about Ramadan. They have a respect for it. If you are fasting then they don't even let you drag a chair for yourself. When I arrived at the University of Evansville and my international orientation leaders came to know that I'm fasting, they carried my bags to my room. They didn't eat in front of me, and it was surprising!
“But we are not used to of eating this kind of food. In Ramadan almost every day we have a new dish on our dining table that is really spicy. To find something halal is an uphill task.”
The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and is implemented by IREX.