TORONTO, Canada Ė As Ramadan starts, many questions like, ďWhy do you have to
fast?Ē start to pop out at me.
Itís probably because only about 2 percent of the Canadian population is Muslim
and many people here are still not familiar with Ramadan, even though itís a
very multicultural country.
To be honest I donít mind answering all the questions, but sometimes I get asked
the same questions so many times I get tired of answering.
An iftar meal during Ramadan in Toronto.
Some people understand why I fast and others donít and they give me shocked
looks. Usually their first response is, ďCanít you even drink water?Ē
I understand why many people are so shocked, but when you are used to fasting it
really isnít that hard. I get to eat at sundown and throughout the night and I
wake up before sunrise to eat some more, so I have enough energy to get me
through the day.
One of the reasons Muslims fast is to feel the pain of others who donít have
food. Because many people donít seem to think about or care about all those
underprivileged people out there, Ramadan is a time for people to reflect on how
privileged they are and how they take basic things for granted, like food and
At least for a month, being in someone elseís shoes and physically feeling what
they feel can help people to become more aware of the situations many people
have to go through on a daily basis.
Fasting is a lot easier than going through the situations many people face,
because I always know that there is going to be food on the table for me to eat
before sunrise and at sundown, but for many people around the world, food isnít
It can be very hard sometimes when I go outside and see people eating. There is
that temptation to eat, but even though itís hard, it pays off later. When I can
finally eat, I always remind myself of how hard it was to resist the temptation
of eating during the day. It makes me feel a lot better when I know that Iíve
tried hard to do something difficult that others arenít doing and that I feel
something most people around me donít feel.
It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
In Canada, people have many misconceptions about Muslims and about Islam.
Because of those misconceptions, they start to believe that all Muslims are
extremists. They not only have negative attitudes toward Muslims, but also
toward their practices. Many people view fasting as something that is beyond
extreme, as something Muslims are forced to do.
In fact, Muslims make the choice to fast to please God and to purify themselves
from bad things.
Throughout the month, Muslims try to pray more than usual and many Muslims also
finish reading the entire Quran. In Toronto, mosques play a very important role
during Ramadan. People use mosques to gather together with other people and to
pray together. Many people also spend time in mosques reading the Quran.
Most mosques usually host iftar (breaking the fast) meals. Lots of people
come out to Mosques for the iftar meals and there are normally big gatherings.
In the gatherings when itís iftar, people start out by eating a few simple
things or drinking something and then they pray the sunset prayer.
After the prayer, people eat the actual meal and have time to socialize. The
gatherings are one of the things about Ramadan that many people enjoy and they
are great for catching up with friends or meeting new people. The gatherings are
also great ways to have cultural exchanges. As you start talking to different
people, you find that you learn a lot about another culture. Itís incredible how
the gatherings bring together people from so many different cultures and how
they create a unique mix between Canadian culture and other cultures.
Even though there are many negative attitudes toward Muslims in Canada and
toward Islam, just being able to fast during Ramadan is a great form of freedom
for us. Itís a way to talk to others and show others what our religion is about.
Hopefully, one day people will no longer have those misconceptions about Muslims
and Islam and people will think of Muslims as peace-loving people.
Don't miss these Ramadan stories that other Youth Journalism
International students have written:
Itís that (Holy) time of the year again
A month of sacrifice and self-control