Followers of the Muslim faith observe practices of fasting and extra prayers during the month of Ramadan, an observance which marks the revelation of the Koran to the prophet Muhammed. In addition to fasting and prayer, Ramadan is also a time to reach out to the less fortunate and is attended by social gatherings and feasts. Both joy and sacrifices are part of the Ramadan observance.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. Mosques publish an elaborate Ramadan schedule that gives the exact times of dawn (Fajr), sunrise (Shorrock), noon (Zuhr), afternoon (Asr), sunset (Maghrib), and night (Isha). In the evening, it is not uncommon for the Mosque to host a meal breaking the fast for the day, an occasion that brings together the members of its religious community. For non-Muslims simply observing the complexity of the Ramadan schedule goes a long way toward offering insight into the depth of the pious observance of this sacred time for Muslims.
Because the Muslim calendar is lunar based, dates for the beginning of religious observances may vary by a day or two since it is necessary for the lunar crescent to be visible. In 2005, Ramadan began on October 4.
In a bid to reach out to the American Muslim community, United States President George W. Bush issued a 2005 Ramadan message. This 2005 Ramadan message was much less political and more ecumenical than his remarks in 2004 which included the statement, "We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not." (This last was a reference to the war in Iraq, an increasingly unpopular conflict both at home and abroad.)
Unfortunately there were terrorist announcements association with the 2005 Ramadan observance when various groups spoke of launching a "great offensive." This kind of thing makes it even more difficult to bridge the yawning gap between the Muslim world and the Western nations. Many Westerners admitted equating the word "Ramadan" with "violence" in polls taken in 2005. Ramadan, sadly, has nothing to do with violence and this misunderstanding of the holiday is emblematic of the yawning gap between the two cultures. Educating the frightened has proven difficult.
Following the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York City when the two towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed, Americans have struggled with the presence of Muslims in their country. It has been difficult for the American people to distinguish between Muslim Americans who support the country and government and terrorists who do not.
Increasingly, however, Ramadan cards have become visible on the racks of greeting card giants like Hallmark. These Ramadan cards call for a Ramadan "filled with blessings" or with "the love of Allah" for the recipient. Such Ramadan cards are even available as electronic greetings online.
An understanding and acceptance of the pious celebration of Ramadan and the visibility of such items as Ramadan cards is a start in healing the climate of fear and suspicion between Muslims and their Western neighbors.