In the spirit of unity, people of many cultures gathered Oct. 5 to experience an evening of Muslim tradition. Officials and residents from Burr Ridge, Darien, Willowbrook and Oak Brook met at Ashton Place in Willowbrook for a meal and program hosted by the Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America.
The group’s Willowbrook chapter welcomed about 200 people to the iftar meal, which kicked off the month-long Ramadan period that focuses on giving and sharing.
“I think it was very worthwhile,” Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso said. “Obviously these are strained times for people who practice Islam. I think they were trying to show the history and the peaceful nature of the religion to educate those who practice other faiths.”
Most importantly, the third annual dinner served as an opportunity for residents to learn more about Muslim culture, said Muhammad Hamadeh, a Burr Ridge resident and president of the Willowbrook MECCA chapter.
“We’re their neighbors,” said Hamadeh, a practicing pulmonologist. “We want residents to understand who we are and know that we’re there form them if they need us.”
The event coincided with the start of Ramadan, the month in the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other pleasures from sunrise to sunset. The iftar meal included a mix of fish, chicken and vegetables along with soup and salad.
Community and sharing are the focal points of Ramadan, which provides an opportunity for Americans of all faiths to connect on a personal level, said Yasser Tabbara, the keynote speaker and director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“The message that everybody should know is that their Muslim neighbors have always been a strong community that has focused on building, rather than just taking the resources of the community and not contributing,” Tabbara said. “In this area, most of them are medical doctors, engineers, professors—people who really are assets to these kinds of communities.”
Also attending the dinner was Burr Ridge police Chief Herbert Timm, who said people can become complacent in thinking the major faiths in America are Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish.
“The more we learn about each other, the more we understand,” Timm said. “We need to reach out more to the Islamic members of our community. We are all here as members of the greater community. We’re trying to bridge any separation that might be there.”
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