Ramadan, the traditional Islamic month of fasting and prayer, can be more than just an Islamic holiday. It can also be an American holiday.
At least, that's the hope of the Al Hedaya Islamic Center, which hosted its first annual "Sharing Ramadan" dinner, geared toward Muslims and non-Muslims alike, Thursday night. Al Hedaya encouraged all members of the community to attend and learn about Islam and Ramadan.
"We want all people, not just Muslims, to say 'Happy Ramadan' when Ramadan comes," said Al Hedaya after-school director John Burrow. We have to open our doors and share our space with non-Muslims so that Ramadan becomes not just a Muslim holiday but an American holiday."
In the spirit of that message, more than a hundred guests joined them, including First Selectman Pat Llodra and Selectman James Gaston. While it's the first such event for Newtown, "Sharing Ramadan" is part of a project launched by CAIR, the Center for American-Islamic Relations.
"There's a great thirst to learn about Islam," said Connecticut CAIR Executive Director Mongi Dhaouadi. "Usually at these events you'll notice a spike in contacts. We try to concentrate on people who are in the community. So many relationships have developed from that."
Mahoudi previously organized "Sharing Ramadan" events in New London, where he said there is a "depth" of Islamic connections in the community. Newtown's Al Hedaya Center opened in 2009 and is located at 115 Mt. Pleasant Road. The center includes a full-time school, youth groups and after-school program.