Rainy weather didn't faze the more than 200 people of diverse faiths who gathered at the Tampa Garden Club May 20 to share a meal of special significance, known as iftar.
May 16 marked the beginning of the Islamic month of Ramadan. During this ninth month of the Islamic calendar, practicing Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and other indulgences from dawn until just after sunset. This month of fasting is intended to foster compassion for the indigent, develop self-control and willpower against temptation, as well as cultivate a sense of spirituality, humility, forgiveness and community.
Each evening during Ramadan, Muslims gather after sunset with family, friends, neighbors and community members to share iftar, a special meal that breaks the daily fast. On May 20, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Florida hosted an Interfaith Ramadan iftar, inviting the Tampa Bay community to share in this special tradition.
The Rev. Andy Oliver, senior pastor of Allendale United Methodist Church of St. Petersburg, was inspired to learn more about Islam by his son Liam, who as a 7-year-old became fast friends with a Syrian refugee classmate. Other speakers included Muslim cleric and teacher Shaikh Inshirah Abdel Jaleel and the Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer, executive director for the Florida Council of Churches.
"The month of Ramadan is a month of serving the community, reflection, unity and giving back," said Aida Mackic, CAIR Florida's director of interfaith and youth programs. "As Muslims we have been faced with staggering growth of Islamophobia, racism, discrimination and hate crimes. Tonight's event brought together a room full of diverse humans making positive impacts in our communities and it showcased how powerful we are when united as one human family. That's the spirit of Ramadan."