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A Ramadan Dinner For The Whole Newtown Community

An Iftar hosted by the Al Hedaya Islamic Center drew more than 100 community members.

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.
Michael Cragin July 28, 2013 at 06:36 AM
Looks delicious..................
WDR July 28, 2013 at 08:17 AM
Why am I not surprised to see Pat Llodra connected to this event. Our so called " conservative " select woman? Mrs" tax and spend " Pat Llodra is a closet liberal. Over 350 homes for sale in Newtown as the residents scatter to get away from her overtaxation policy. Year after year raising taxes on the residents of Newtown . The proof of this statement being Democrats so pleased with her policies not running a challenger in November against her. Newtowns only hope would be a independent to run and clean her clock . Not likely, as her army runs deep.
John Woodall, MD July 28, 2013 at 09:07 AM
@WDR: I can appreciate that there are different views of fiscal policy that define a "conservative" from a "liberal." All well and good. Your comment implies a religious difference as well. One that many conservatives don't share. I'm happy to see efforts that bring different elements of our community together, such as this Ramadan celebration for the community. I'm especially happy to see our civic leaders doing all they can to foster a spirit of unity in diversity. We are stronger as a community as a result. In the 21st Century, I would be "surprised" if they pitted us against each other. And yes, the food does look delicious!
Old Saybrook Mel July 28, 2013 at 09:10 AM
Not being of the Newtown community I have no opinion of Pat Llondra's participation. However I am heartened to see an Islamic community effort at outreach and community reciprocity. We spent a marvelous 9 days in Turkey last year, and then in east Jerusalem. Outreach and welcome are hallmarks of many faiths. Too bad it's so often spoiled by our American Taliban of other faiths.
pj kerry July 28, 2013 at 01:49 PM
wd - what is your problem with Ms LLondra attending "THIS EVENT"? Or did you just feel the need for some right-wing bigotry to kick-start your Sunday morning?
Newtown4 July 29, 2013 at 04:22 AM
I hope I don't offend any politically correct readers, but seriously folks, Forget all the Llodra comments and lets focus on WHY here and WHY now for this type of event? Lets not forget that the mission of the local muslim churches is to infiltrate and multiply--here in Newtown and here in America in general. Over the past five years here in our little town of Newtown I am suddenly seeing the "head scarf" worn frequently in shops and stores around town. I have been told that this is not done until a critical mass of muslims lives in an area--sadly I am seeing this in Trumbull and Danbury and elsewhere too. Make no mistake--this religion wants to infiltrate America and they don't assimilate, but rather seek to change us to their ways--this religion is a threat to the American freedom and American way of life--Europe is already starting to fall--parts of Norway are 1/3 muslim and are unsafe for any woman to walk down its streets. Areas in Europe are more sharia law than police law. My husband just returned from London and he's always saddened to see the proliferation of the burka and head covering in every corner of Heathrow airport. I don't know the answer to preserving our American way of life, but I do know that this religion wants to hijack our way of life and whatever propaganda was spewed at this dinner I hope is not supported by Llodra and or any local politician. Wake up Newtown and Wake up America!
pj kerry July 29, 2013 at 08:35 AM
Sounds like the Declaration of Indepence is just too "politcally correct" for you. IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776 The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — etc etc etc
John Woodall, MD July 29, 2013 at 09:40 AM
@Newtown4: I think we are all in for a shock when we see just what Islam is all about. This is a true story of something I personally witnessed while working with Bosnian Muslim refugees after the war there. Here's a link to what happened: http://www.johnwoodall.net/2011/02/05/fantastic-coffee-and-my-shock/#axzz2aRQxfw9H
Garret K July 29, 2013 at 10:36 AM
CAIR demands that American Law embrace Sharia Law, here on American soil. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cair-releases-community-toolkit-to-challenge-anti-sharia-bills-141075123.html
Newtown4 July 29, 2013 at 12:46 PM
John Woodall, I don't deny what you speak of, but the agenda for the muslim faith is still to take over and then take away what we have here. There are complete neighborhoods in London that are not safe for me as a woman to walk into--it is common knowledge that no non-muslim woman walks there. As a woman, I am disgusted seeing all these local head scarfs and saddened that my children will have to deal with the radicalism that likely will follow--local muslim women are encouraged to have children and submit. It doesn't surprise me that a religion dominated by men is this way. The individual muslim may be a nice sweet person, but I don't trust them collectively--and their beliefs have led to many a trouble here and throughout the world. There is an agenda and it is a strong one--be careful about turning away from the obvious or we will lose our way of life! Consider the following: http://www.geertwilders.nl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1535 And don't miss this (all over the news just one week ago): http://www.dailyworld.com/usatoday/article/2554045 These are just the tip of the iceberg! And, as for pj kerry, I am sure you are aware that our nation was formed by a group of Christian men who bravely stood against oppression. I am sure you are aware that they set up this constitution in a day and age where the tyranny of the muslim was not yet evident and the agenda not formally set for jihad. Feel free to politically-correctly support these "infiltrators" and feel free to do so as they are taking away your children's way of life and freedoms!
pj kerry July 29, 2013 at 01:26 PM
newt4 - perhaps you should send Ms Llodra a list of others on your Hate List, so that in the future she will know what functions to stay far afield from. Tea Party, correct ?
John Woodall, MD July 29, 2013 at 01:40 PM
I can speak of two kinds of experience with Islam. The first is as a Baha'i were my co-religionists, friends and family of friends, are outlawed and killed by fanatical Islamic clergy in Iran and other countries. So my experience is very personal. My second experience is also very personal as in the link to my blog post from Bosnia, listed above and in my very personal experience here in Newtown. The Muslim community here couldn't be a better example of loving friends and perfect neighbors. Their children contribute to service projects in town along with their non-Muslim neighbors. They sing in the Newtown Youth Voices. Their gentleness and generosity have made them dear and close friends, my wife and I included. So, life is complex. One has to ask, what do you want to promote? I say, promote the wonderful examples of the best in Islam by befriending and supporting our valued Muslim neighbors here in Newtown. The world has an eye on our friends here for the example they give to their fellow Muslim communities. They see here a Muslim community that works closely with the rest of the community in an integrated and humble way. My heart tells me to support my friends and my mind tells me it is the smart thing to do in order to provide a role model of how things can be.
Garret K July 29, 2013 at 02:03 PM
pj kerry, the TEA Party is a hate group? LOL!!! That's ridiculous, and you have no proof of this at all. I'll recant when you show me where the TEA Party has beheaded anyone in the name of their god, or had gang-rapes of non-Muslim women for sport, or the last time a TEA Party person bombed any place.
Newtown4 July 29, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Thank you Garret K! And, NO I am not Tea Party--why must a discussion of the opposing viewpoint from yours be something that is used to marginalize me or any other! I am simply a Newtown parent who has already seen the changing landscape of the Western way of life. And, I want to represent here the opposing and popular voice that Muslims are being watched and we are not stupidly allowing them to take control. Just as this article states--they want Ramadan to be an "American holiday"--Why do you think that would be!? And, I like that you have had positive muslim experiences, but my recent experience with local muslim men has NOT been a positive one. On one of my son's sports teams, there are two Islamic boys involved--the 2 fathers (who are the only parent who ever bring these boys--I want to highlight the lack of women participating) have not assimilated with the team parent culture and rarely utter a word to the other parents (again, you can see they don't want to conform to American ways) despite us trying to engage them multiple attempts. Meanwhile, at the team photograph, one of these muslim father's was incensed because the one girl on the team was going to be in the photo immediately in front of his son and because of that his son's legs could not be seen. He was so upset about this he began irrationally shouting to put "that girl" behind the boys. Being one of the shorter team members this girl would not be seen if placed behind any of the boys and when questioned about their very vocal request, he shrugged his shoulders and said "so what about the girl". All of us moms were horrified but it just confirmed the disgraceful lack of reverence for fairness and equality for women/girls. In any case, I understand this may be the acts of one individual, but given that I have heard similar things from others, I am simply giving a voice that until proven truly peaceful, we all should be cautious! Since muslims are growing faster than any other group other than hispanics in the US I suspect it may not be long until voting blocks go the islamic way--it is estimated that in just a few short generations Islam will be taking control politically. If that is the case, do you want your daughters to be under Sharia law, do you want your son's either? Think about it please and I just urge vigilance and caution until proven otherwise. I guess if I would see them coming to our country and embracing American values (truly)--not just participating to appear to be so--I would be more open. For now, I am cautious and vigilant.
John Woodall, MD July 29, 2013 at 05:39 PM
It would be profoundly unfair if I were to label all Christians as violent zealots after my witnessing first hand the genocide perpetrated in the name of Christianity by Serbs and Croats against Bosnian Muslims. Or, if I were to label as irretrievably violent all Christians as a result of the terrorism of Timothy McVey and his ilk who want to overthrough our government by violent means in the name of Christianity. I'm sure you would agree it would be unfair for me to hold all Christians accountable to these extremists. The same holds true for all religions. It is unfair and unwise to condemn an entire religion for the extremism of some. It is precisely because of these excesses that we need viable examples of the best of each religion and especially, examples of interfaith cooperation. It is for exactly this reason that the example emerging from Newtown is so valuable. Sincere followers of any religion and no religion can take great heart to know that just such an example is emerging from the interfaith community here. We like each other. In fact, we love each other. I would especially hope that those who don't live here take heart to know that such beauty, such true friendship that reaches across what seems like impossible divides is not only possible, but is a living reality here. Try it where you are. It is a much more exciting and rewarding task than the impossible and misguided effort of trying to restrict or condemn a whole religion. That path only leads to more fear and more anger which breed more conflict. My Muslim friends here in Newtown are some of the best citizens in town. I'm proud to know them and count them as friends. I think a dialogue on the excesses of religion elsewhere is best kept off our town's news pages and kept where it applies. It doesn't apply here. Thank God! Salaam.
John Woodall, MD July 30, 2013 at 11:32 AM
To Newtown4's points. I know people personally who have been killed by Muslim extremists in other countries. I know people personally who have survived a genocide perpetrated against them by Christians. These losses are not political or theoretical to me. They are very painfully personal. . I don't blame all Muslims or Christians for the evil acts done in the name of their religions. The local Islamic center in Newtown was begun by women and is largely run by women. It is a wonderful group of people whom I think you would like. Perhaps we can arrange a meeting that would give a more realistic idea of the local Muslim community that would offset the terrible experience you had. Let me know. I'm happy to arrange tea or coffee.
Garret K July 30, 2013 at 01:57 PM
Dr. Woodall: You said- "Or, if I were to label as irretrievably violent all Christians as a result of the terrorism of Timothy McVey and his ilk who want to overthrough our government by violent means in the name of Christianity." Please show proof of this about McVeigh. He never aligned himself with such a preposterous ideal. Islamists, on the other hand, have. And with more frequency and impudence than any so-called Christian Hate Groups.
John Woodall, MD July 30, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Hello Garret. You're right to state that some Islamists, like al Quaeda, have committed themselves to the destruction of the US, as long as we are miltarily involved in Islamic countries and have our bases stationed there. I can say the following from both personal experience having lost friends to these extremists and as a friend to many Muslims: these violent extremists do not represent Islam. They are a very troubling and very dangerous minority, to be sure. They worry our local Muslims who feel they pay the price for the extremists who give their religion a bad name. Here in Newtown, I can speak, again, from longstanding personal experience and not a general political, theoretical or religious fear. The Islamic community of Newtown is, I think, representative of the best of Islam. The Muslims I know in Newtown are nothing but sincere, honest, kind, delightful, friendly and even loving. They are wonderful friends and good citizens of our town anxious to be of service to the greater good. I am all for holding in check, defeating, the former and doing all we can to promote and strentgthen the latter. But, we need to be realistic. It is a small world and it is impossible to eliminate or restrain a religious impulse. Persecution or attack only strengthens the extremists elements in that religion and weakens the good people, like our Newtown neighbors. We should do all we can to encourage them, help them feel welcome, include them. It's not only our religious obligation, "Love thy neighbor as thyself," it is strategically the safest. My perspective might be a little more global as a result of my work life. I ran a refugee relief program for the State Department in the former Yugoslavia. There, it was very clear that political groups abusing the name of Christianity, perpetrated one of the worst genocides of the post war era on Bosnian Muslims. If you have the time, I would encourage you to read the link I posted above that demonstrated the reaction of the Muslim community. I have no illusions about Muslim extremists. My friends have died at their hands. That is no more reason for me to blame every Muslim for these hideous acts than it is for me to blame all Christians for the deaths of my Muslim friends in Bosnia. We live in troubled times. The real fears we face have to be managed wisely, or they will consume us. I choose to strengthen the best of my Muslim friends so that they can prosper, but also so that they can be role models to other Muslims who might feel, because they know they are hated by some Americans, no reason not to turn toward extremism. Humiliation, alienation, rejection, fear and anger breed extremism. These are the real enemies. If I give in to these forces that well up in all of us, am I not creating the conditions for more extremism and conflict? I think so. I can not wish my friends who were murdered by Islamic clergy back to life in Iran. But, my hating all Muslims would only make things far worse and I would, in the process, give away my own better self to hate. I've suffered too much to allow that. We need to find a better way.
John Woodall, MD July 30, 2013 at 02:38 PM
To your question, Garret, here is one of many links you can find about Timothy McVeigh. This, written by a former FBI agent who tracked the Christian Identity terrorist group McVeigh belonged to:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/04/AR2005060400147.html
shaul Praver July 30, 2013 at 03:42 PM
I was at the Ramadan prayer/breakfast with my family and found it to be a delightful event. These are my friends and I continue to love and support them. If you were present like me you would see how it was really difficult to come away with a negative feeling. We in Newtown, in CT. And throughout the country need to be aware of the friendly loving Muslim community who find spirituality through the prayers and ethical practices of their religion. You need to meet the people and form your own impression and not from what somebody else that didn't meet them is saying about them. What you will discover is that this community by and large reject vigorously those "Muslims" who practice and teach militant Jihad. Whereas, For them, Jihad is like lent to a catholic. It's time to get your information about Muslims from actual Muslims as opposed to TV and blogs. It's time for direct engagement. It's like the right wing senator who preached his entire career that gay people are the scourge of the earth; Funny how that whole ideological edifice crumbled when his own highly accomplished son whom he loves revealed to him that he is gay! He realized he was making decisions based on ideology as opposed to actual personal encounters with gay people. He reversed his anti-gay stance. You've got to meet people and see who they are and what they stand for before you can judge them.
pj kerry July 30, 2013 at 04:38 PM
Well said shaul. Unfortunately, as long as so many people depend on bigots like limbaugh and hannity for their information, the haters will continue with their warped views.
Lk July 30, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Newtown4- Well said! I agree that we should be cautious and concerned.
Garret K July 30, 2013 at 08:36 PM
John Woodall: You'll need to try again, sir. The WashPo link you provided does not say McVeigh was directly involved in any Christian Identity movements. Please know I am an atheist/humanist, and I could care less about Jesus and all that stuff. But even I can see how Islam is determined to assault and kill Americans and other Muslims, and how christianity is hardly a national or worldy threat. For you to try and pin chrstianity, even a twisted form of it, onto McVeigh as some justification for you to tolerate Muslims is pretty thin.
John Woodall, MD July 30, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Oh, by the way, I don't "tolerate" Muslims because extremes Christians exist and make a one to one cancellation. I love my Muslim friends here in Newtown because I know them personally and they are good decent people. It is an honor to know and love them. I don't "tolerate" them. I would again ask you to read this::http://www.johnwoodall.net/2011/02/05/fantastic-coffee-and-my-shock/#axzz2aaUZFJFp Then, ask yourself what is it in Islam that could evoke such a response? It is the best in any religion. The best that humans are capable of in horrific circumstances. I can not deny the death of my friends. I can not deny the truth of the beauty of this response in Bosnia. They are both true of Islam. My experience with Islam is direct, personal, studied, longstanding, both deadly and life-affirming. It is nuanced and complex. It is not black and white. My dead friends remain dead, killed by Muslim extremists. I can choose hate. I refuse to. Simple as that. You can choose otherwise, but I would suggest it only adds to the division and conflict and grants neither personal or social peace.

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