For Somalis, living in the United States comes with its own set of challenges, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Unlike in Somalia, Islam is not a widely practised religion in the United States. As of 2017, only 1.1% of the total U.S. population considered themselves Muslims, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.
“Here, (we) are a small community and we celebrate it a little differently,” said Hassan Omar, president of the Somali Community Association of Ohio. On Tuesday, Muslims across the world will celebrate Eid-al-fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam that requires Muslims to fast for 30 days.
“It’s like Christmas when you compare it to the American lifestyle,” said Omar, who was joined with about 15 Somali elders last Thursday in the Somali community centre on Columbus’ Northeast Side, a regular meeting place for this native east-African community. The group of elders meet most weekday evenings to discuss issues that affect the community and share information to help each other.
Yet, culturally, fasting during Ramadan can be challenging for Somalis in the United States, Omar said. For example, kids cannot stay home from school because it is not a recognized holiday here.
Another challenge is the temptation that surrounds Muslims who are fasting, the elders said through Omar, who translated for the group. In Somalia, eating in public during Ramadan is prohibited. Restaurants flip their hours to reflect the fasting period and only open after sunset to serve those after they break their daily fast. But in the U.S., sit-down restaurants, fast food drive-thrus and other dining options abound — Ramadan or not.
In central Ohio, most Somali restaurants in town are closed during Ramadan. Some open in the evening as they prepare to breakfast. Other challenges aren’t religious, but cultural, Omar said. In Somalia, Eid is celebrated with a night full of traditional folklore dancing, music and other performances with thousands gathered. In central Ohio, people are more apt to mark Eid with smaller gatherings of family and friends in homes and in late- night outings.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch