Posted at 07:05 PM ET, 08/01/2012
Ramadan and religious freedom
By Azizah al-Hibri and M. Zuhdi Jasser
From North and South America to Europe, and Africa and Australia to Asia, including the Middle East, Ramadan reminds Muslims of the soulful ties that bind them together. For Muslims, it is a month to strengthen faith in God and reaffirm love and reliance upon Him and His Word as revealed through the message of the prophet Muhammad. The month also is an opportunity for Muslims to fulfill Godís commandment to fast from sunrise to sunset (2:185) , an act that joins Muslims together as equals. It is also far more. Whether reciting the Koran, offering prayers, performing charity, or sharing in the nightly iftar dinner, Ramadan is a month for self-reflection and atonement. It also is a time for Muslims to come closer to God, scripture, family, friends, and neighbors, while gaining a deeper understanding and empathy for those who are less fortunate.
Given all that is happening in todayís world, Ramadan provides an especially important inflection point this year. In this time of reflection, we are particularly disturbed that Muslims and non-Muslims alike continue to have their right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion violated by governments, religious extremists, and sometimes even their misguided neighbors.
It is also our hope during Ramadan that non-Muslims will take this opportunity to get to know better their Muslim neighbors and friends, and break bread with them at an evening iftar. Only through friendship and dialogue can we discard oppressive stereotypes and build communal bonds.
Finally, it is our hope that all of us remember that the respect and freedom, including religious freedom, which we seek for ourselves are only as possible, protected, and meaningful as the freedoms we allow for others and help them achieve.