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O.C. Muslims welcome Ramadan in year of uprisings

CAIR-LA official says the Muslim tradition has 'a different taste' this year.

August 02, 2011|By Mona Shadia, mona.shadia@latimes.com
  • CELEBRATE: Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini leads prayers during the 2008 Ramadan program at the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County.
CELEBRATE: Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini leads prayers… (File Photo, Daily…)

Ramadan began Monday with special significance for Orange County Muslims, who celebrated the democratic tide washing over Egypt and Tunisia but also expressed concern for those who remain in peril in Syria, Libya and other Middle Eastern dictatorships.

"It's definitely a Ramadan with a different taste," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area, in Anaheim. "It comes as the first Ramadan under freedom to tens of millions of Muslims around the world, but who are still dealing with the challenges of instability and the unknown.

"But for others, it comes to them under dictators' brutality, such as in Syria and Libya, and other places, and it's not an easy to observe the month of Ramadan."

Rabab Issa, a member of the Costa Mesa-based Islamic Educational Center of Orange County, would not take a political position, but said this year she will also be praying for her people in Syria.

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Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. During Ramadan, which falls every year on the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims abstain from things like food and water from sunrise to sunset. The faithful believe that the monthlong holiday allows them to renew their faith, recharge their spirits and reconnect with their creator.

"The month of Ramadan is the month of generosity, as known in Islam," Ayloush said. "It's the month of compassion and mercy toward others. The two things we seek in Ramadan for ourselves are God's mercy and forgiveness, and that cannot be achieved until we apply that forgiveness and mercy toward others.

"You don't forgive those who do you good. You forgive those who do you wrong. That takes an extra level of compassion toward others."

For Huntington Beach resident Maria Khani, it's a time of extra giving to those in need and a time of family bonding.

"It's a family time," she said. "We don't go out and we eat at home. This is my family tradition."

Although Khani and her family's daily routine keep them busy all year long, they adjust their schedules to be able to observe Ramadan together.

Khani's husband, Hassan Al Khouli, whose work as a physician sometimes keeps him away from dinner with his family, makes sure he's home by Iftar, or the breaking of the fast.

This month, Khani and her daughter, Dania Al Khouli, are working together on two charity projects: one to benefit the youth and another to feed the hungry.

Children, the elderly and the ill are excused from fasting during the holiday.

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