Friday, 20 July 2018

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U Understanding Islam

Finding Common Ground

By Ella Nayor, For Fort Myers Florida Weekly, On 16 May 2018, Read Original

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ASSALAMU ALAIKUM. Peace be with you. The common greeting in Arabic is a thread that links Muslims around the globe. For many, the Islamic faith is exotic and mysterious. For some, thoughts of cloaked and oppressed women, religious-based extremism and violence is what shades thinking. But Muslims living in Southwest Florida and experts of the Islamic faith will say these notions are misconceptions, misunderstanding and stereotypes based on mass media or lack of education.

And it shows an ignorance that hurts everyone.

To better understand the life and challenges of the Southwest Florida Muslim community, Florida Weekly spent nearly two months speaking with residents and clerics and attending religious services at area mosques. Trust needed to be gained. This meant meeting in coffee shops, stores, businesses, restaurants and religious centers or mosques. It meant late-night phone conversations as Muslims jockeyed the time between work and family life. It also meant checking personal biases and fear. It meant giving respect and compassion.

Imam Muhammad Nour, the religious leader of the Islamic Center of Naples Inc., invites the community to visit the center and ask questions about the Islamic faith. COURTESY PHOTO

Imam Muhammad Nour, the religious leader of the Islamic Center of Naples Inc., invites the community to visit the center and ask questions about the Islamic faith. COURTESY PHOTO

But most of all, it meant being humble and human. For meet-ups I wore modest attire, as the Muslim faith and culture is one based in humility and modesty. At one of the mosques I visited I wore a scarf and removed my shoes before entering the prayer area for women. Though some of these activities were at first a bit uncomfortable, a few moments of discomfort are not much compared to a daily life of looking behind you, worrying about being accepted because of one’s attire or being on edge because national media just reported a terrorist event involving a Muslim individual.

Dina Abedrabbo and her daughter Salma Abedrabbo enjoy a moment between customers and work at the family business Mediterranean Grocery in Fort Myers. COURTESY PHOTO

Dina Abedrabbo and her daughter Salma Abedrabbo enjoy a moment between customers and work at the family business Mediterranean Grocery in Fort Myers. COURTESY PHOTO

Knowing faith, culture

Members of the Center for Islamic and Cultural Awareness in Fort Myers. COURTESY PHOTO

Members of the Center for Islamic and Cultural Awareness in Fort Myers. COURTESY PHOTO

JUST AS MUSLIMS HAVE A LONG-INVOLVED and enmeshed history in the nation, they are sewn into the fabric of the Southwest Florida community. They come from different parts of the globe, including the U.S. They are proud of their heritage, faith and of being Southwest Floridians. Their careers and lives are as varied as the countries and cultures from which they come. Local Muslims work in the medical field, finance, education, business, cuisine, technology and the clergy.

Members of the Islamic Center of Naples attend Friday afternoon services. Imam Muhammad Nour, the center’s religious leader, gave a spirited sermon. CHRIS KOVAS / FLORIDA WEEKLY

Members of the Islamic Center of Naples attend Friday afternoon services. Imam Muhammad Nour, the center’s religious leader, gave a spirited sermon. CHRIS KOVAS / FLORIDA WEEKLY

Less than 1 percent of Florida residents are of the Muslim faith, according to a Pew Research Center report. But numbers in the U.S. are growing. As of 2015 there were 1.8 billion Muslims in the world — about 24 percent of the global population, according to the Pew Research Center estimate. Islam is the world’s second-largest religion behind Christianity, and it is the fastestgrowing major religion, according to the Pew report.

 

This means chances of getting to meet someone who is Muslim are increasing.

And area Muslims would like to have the chance to get to know their non- Muslim neighbors and to share who they are and what their faith is about.

Layla Abedrabbo, 17, of Fort Myers, shows how her app for Muslim prayer uses a compass to point to Mecca — the holy city in Saudi Arabia for Muslims. COURTESY PHOTO

Layla Abedrabbo, 17, of Fort Myers, shows how her app for Muslim prayer uses a compass to point to Mecca — the holy city in Saudi Arabia for Muslims. COURTESY PHOTO

Muslim residents from Fort Myers, Naples and Port Charlotte have differences and commonalities within the Southwest Florida community. Some are from the Arab nations while others hail from Southeast Asia, Europe and the U.S. While all share a common thread with their faith in God and adherence to the scriptures in the Quran, their cultures are unique and diverse.

Port Charlotte resident Samera Musallet, center, and her family participate in the Disney Marathon at Disney World in Orlando. COURTESY PHOTO

Port Charlotte resident Samera Musallet, center, and her family participate in the Disney Marathon at Disney World in Orlando. COURTESY PHOTO

“Culture and religion, there’s a line between the two,” said Yolanda Mohammed, a Port Charlotte resident. Ms. Mohammed said it’s important to understand the distinction between ethnic culture and the Islamic faith.

According to Imam Mohamed Al- Darsani of the Islamic Center for PEACE in Fort Myers, the Islamic faith is the scripture and how Muslims adhere to God. That is fixed and not interchangeable. But culture varies from country to country and ethnicity. For instance, there is no scripture in the Quran specifically saying a woman needs to wear a head covering, but in different countries the culture often dictates this practice.

Women members of Islamic Center of Naples Inc. pray in a separate designated prayer space during a recent Friday afternoon service. In many Muslim holy centers it is a religious practice for women and men pray in separate areas. COURTESY PHOTO

Women members of Islamic Center of Naples Inc. pray in a separate designated prayer space during a recent Friday afternoon service. In many Muslim holy centers it is a religious practice for women and men pray in separate areas. COURTESY PHOTO

Culture aside, faith to the Muslim community is everything.

Mehfuza Harmon and her husband Richard prepare a dish at their Fort Myers restaurant Le Gourmet India. Ms. Harmon and her Muslim convert husband run a business based on humility and compassion. COURTESY PHOTO

Mehfuza Harmon and her husband Richard prepare a dish at their Fort Myers restaurant Le Gourmet India. Ms. Harmon and her Muslim convert husband run a business based on humility and compassion. COURTESY PHOTO

Mehfuza Harmon is as passionate about making well-executed and delectable Indian dishes at her Fort Myers restaurant, Le Gourmet Indian, as she is about practicing her faith.

Paulette Roberts, the wife of Imam Mohamed Al-Darsani of the Islamic Center for PEACE in Fort Myers, shows how she uses an app designed to notify Muslim faithful of prayer times. COURTESY PHOTO

Paulette Roberts, the wife of Imam Mohamed Al-Darsani of the Islamic Center for PEACE in Fort Myers, shows how she uses an app designed to notify Muslim faithful of prayer times. COURTESY PHOTO

During a recent visit to her simple but cozy restaurant, Ms. Harmon stirred a large pan of rice and talked about standing up for women and being strong. She worked as a banker before operating her restaurant that caters to judges, lawyers, reporters and all walks of life.

Family members of Port Chatlotte resident Samera Musallet celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid with a bowling day. COURTESY PHOTO

Family members of Port Chatlotte resident Samera Musallet celebrate the Muslim holiday Eid with a bowling day. COURTESY PHOTO

The petite, dark-eyed beauty from India is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to standing up for her beliefs and what she feels is right. She does not wear a hijab, but rather a simple black skullcap atop her dark, thick hair. She and her husband Richard Harmon, a Muslim convert and self-described hillbilly, spend their time running their business.

“I proudly tell people I am Muslim,” she said.

Ms. Harmon is fiery and caring. She talks about a homeless man who comes by. She said he’s just having a hard time and needs some help. She allows him to stay and makes sure he gets something to eat. “I don’t judge,” she says.

Mr. Harmon, 58, who quietly works at the restaurant making coconut peanut butter, converted in 2001 before marrying Ms. Harmon.

“Initially the decision to convert — it was a challenge,” he said.

But it did not take long for Mr. Harmon to acclimate and learn the prayers and Muslim way of life.

“The process was not hard,” he said. “A lot of it made sense.”

Soon the warmth and camaraderie that he gained with his newfound brothers — as Muslim men consider them — connected him, he said.

As we spoke, Hana Ahmad, an award-winning Lee County schoolteacher, entered the restaurant to chat with Ms. Harmon, a dear friend. Ms. Ahmad is a member of the Nation of Islam and hails from New York. She is warm and devoted to her career as a teacher. She said she has never met with any discrimination in Southwest Florida and puts her effort in helping her students develop confidence and inner strength. A few moments later, Imam Al-Darsani came by and we all sat at the table and talked about life. There was laughter, frank discussion and the imbibing of a sweet coconut drink — in essence it was like eating at the family dinner table.

‘This is my home’

ZAYNAH BAKIR, 36, IS MARRIED TO AN emergency room doctor, is the mother of two children and works as a real estate businesswoman in Lee County. While I visited her mosque in downtown Fort Myers she spent time explaining Muslim culture to me. She showed me a poster on the wall at the humble mosque depicting the tenets of the faith. Her emerald green-hued eyes sparkled as she spoke in soft notes about her faith and people from Baghdad, Iraq.

Though Ms. Bakir grew up in the U.S., her parents both are from Baghdad. She strives to help the Southwest Florida community understand the Muslim faith and correct any misunderstandings.

And like Ms. Bakir, Hasan Kajtezovic wants to share his faith and compassion for the community. Mr. Kajtezovic, 32, is a Bonita Springs resident and member of the Islamic Center of Naples Inc. The soft-spoken young man has lived in the U.S. for nine years. He is from Bosnia. Mr. Kajtezovic, who is in the medical supply business, is married and has a 2-year-old son.

He is best known for his love of cars and playing soccer, he said laughing.

“I am very happy to be in this country,” he said. “I have practically grown up here. This is my home.”

For 32 years, Haffeza Sattar has lived and worked in Punta Gorda. She and her late husband ran an auto repair shop in the city.

During her work at the shop she had frequent contact with customers from all walks of life.

Ms. Sattar, 68, connected with people because of her zest for life and big, bright smile. Though she would not allow bad language in her shop, she was liberal with love and compassion for everyone.

“I love to smile,” she said. “I love to say hello. I am always breaking the ice and that makes everyone mellow.”

Razia Usman, who has lived for 25 years in Naples, said being Muslim in Southwest Florida has been — for the most part — a positive experience.

“I have been very fortunate,” she said.

Finding common ground

IMAM AL-DARSANI REFERRED ME TO Lubna Alam, and we texted and spoke on the phone a few times. Ms. Alam agreed to meet with me to help educate me about the Muslim faith. I found a spot to park in downtown Fort Myers, grabbed my notebook and padded off to the Starbuck’s coffee shop at Broadway and First streets.

The thumping of my heart matched the quick pace of my walk. I have to admit I was nervous. What were we going to talk about? My worries dissipated as soon as we met. Ms. Alam, a beautiful woman who moved here with her family last August from Appleton, Wis., flashed a smile and we began to talk.

It was clear that we had much in common and chatter flowed easily. Ms. Alam, who grew up in Pakistan, has an MBA in finance and is married to a local gastroenterologist. She has four children and is an activist for human rights. She runs an informative and exciting class about Islam at area churches and community centers. Her work is insightful and scholarly. Everything was on the table during our conversation. We discussed fashion, religious modesty, prayer, God and life. We also chatted about our families and work and causes we have taken on to better the world and ourselves. Though I have four dogs and no children and am Jewish and not Muslim, we felt a kindred spirit in our way we choose to see the world and our role in it.

That evening we covered much material and ideas. Time seemed to evaporate. We laughed, compared stories of families and lives but mostly we just connected as two 40-something women.

A challenge to fit in

MUSLIM RESIDENTS MUDDLE THROUGH THE oppressive summers, go to the beaches with their friends, shop at area supermarkets and do things other Southwest Floridians do on a daily basis. But seemingly mundane tasks and activities such as grocery shopping, going to the beach and even buying a cup of coffee often comes with extra challenges for members of the Muslim community. Some of these challenges are in the modest clothing attire and head wraps that many Muslim women choose to wear as a sign of their faith.

The decision to wear a head covering is a personal choice made at any time in a women’s life. It is a choice for deeper piety and modesty and a Muslim woman’s connection with God. And though wearing a head covering varies from culture to culture, it is a decision made by the woman — not anyone else.

According to Imam Al-Darsani, donning a hijab is personal, spiritual and a decision to be made by the woman wearing it.

“It’s an act of worship,” he said.

Imam Al-Darsani said that often people confuse religion with culture. Certain countries, for instance, are more conservative and might impress upon Muslim women to wear a head covering while other countries let it be. It is not considered a must in the Quran to wear a hijab, Imam Al-Darsani said.

“In the Quran, men and women are 100 percent equal,” he said.

Imam Al-Darsani, 61, said he never pushed his daughter to wear a head covering. And his wife Paulette, a convert to the Muslim faith, does not wear a hijab, either.

But the decision does not always come easily. And in Southwest Florida, the decision to wear a hijab is often fraught with challenges of fitting in, being ostracized and even becoming a target.

Dina Abedrabbo gets questions about her hijab, such as, “Are you hot?”

The Fort Myers resident and business owner handles the questions and stares she gets from time to time.

“No matter what, I see people looking at me,” she said.

But Samera Musallet said she chose her faith over fear.

“I put (the hijab) on (on) New Year’s Eve,” she said. “I worried what will (others) think about it. It was very hard. I felt like everybody’s staring at me.”

Ms. Musallet’s voice falters a bit when she recalls the first time she wore a head covering to a Port Charlotte Publix 13 years ago.

Ms. Mussallet said she felt so unnerved that she left her shopping cart in the produce section. But the next day she mustered the courage to go back and face the public and any scrutiny that could follow.

Ms. Mussalet said she feels so strongly about how she is seen in public because it not just her as an individual that the world is seeing. On her mind, and the minds of many other area Muslims when they go outside of their homes, is that they are not just representing themselves, but the entire Islamic faith. “It’s hard for us,” she said.

The need to “put one’s best foot forward,” is a duty that many local Muslim residents feel compelled to do in order to curb and soften the fear and misunderstanding often connected with the Islamic faith and culture.

“Since 9-11 it’s been a challenge,” Imam Al-Darsani said. “You have to go out of your way to prove that your religion is about peace and harmony.”

Facing Islamaphobia

 

AT THE CRUX IS THE FEELING THAT ONE must answer for the actions of radical extremists who twist sacred scripture and God for dark deeds.

Experts say that if the U.S. doesn’t stem Islamaphobia, the fear of Muslims, it will get worse.

“Islamophobia is getting worse,” said Dr. Craig Considine, a sociology professor at Rice University. “Hate crimes are going up. I link it to the racialization of Islam.”

Dr. Considine teaches a course about American and Islamic relations. His book “Muslims in America: Examining the Facts” is to be released in July.

Dr. Considine said that to improve relations and correct misunderstanding about the Islamic community at large, Muslims and non-Muslims need to be aware of cultural bias and ignorance. “It goes both ways,” he said.

Just having a name that sounds Arabic or in some way Muslim can cause challenges.

Imam Al-Darsani recalls being detained at the airport for two hours after an international flight. He said he was picked up at the door by two authority figures and questioned about every book and publication he had in his possession.

In another instance he was invited to speak at an area church by a local pastor. But some of the congregants were less than accepting and had to be asked to leave by the pastor.

“They were not happy about me being there,” Imam Al-Darsani said. “Ignorance is always a problem within and without the culture.”

And if there is a bombing or some other deadly event on the news, local Muslims hold their breath and hope the deed was not committed by one of their own.

“Let’s pray it’s not a Muslim,” Imam Al-Darsani said.

At the Islamic Center of Naples, President Mohammed Usman said that after living in Naples for 45 years he has learned to take much with a “grain of salt.” He has found support and peace within the Southwest Florida city. But still he longs for change in the overall picture.

“We want to live in peace the same way you want to live in peace,” he said.

And peace is still but a dream to many.

A local Muslim woman recently contacted Imam Al-Darsani because she was forced to quit her construction-related job. Apparently some co-workers were allegedly threatening to hit her.

He and his friends and members of the Muslim community face various challenges — most of which they just brush off because they keep hoping to inspire the true tenets of their faith — peace, harmony and compassion.

“Sometimes you have to help make people (see),” said Razia Usman, a Naples resident.

At her work at an upscale kitchen and cooking store in Naples, Ms. Usman, who wears a hijab, has faced a couple of people who refused to speak with her and acted like wasn’t there. She tried in vain to explain to the customers but they ignored her anyway.

“They acted like I didn’t exist,” she said.

Young Muslim residents who already must navigate the often-choppy waters of youth have the additional weight of their faith to bear as well. For Salaar Alam, 17, contending with ignorance toward his faith landed him a suspension for in-school fighting. The senior said he stood up to a bullying situation when another male student made fun of his name and showed disrespect toward his faith. The Fort Myers High School senior said the teacher who had knowledge of the fracas refused to call it racially motivated, which would have mitigated the punishment.

“I feel like my religion is nothing but a joke,” he said.

Now after the suspension Mr. Alam just keeps to himself instead of mingling and connecting with many of the other students.

Educating others

SOME MUSLIM RESIDENTS SAY THEY GIVE of their time, resources and hearts in order to help people understand that being Muslim is not akin to being harmful or negative.

Dina Abedrabbo and her daughter, Layla Abedrabbo, a Dunbar high school student, say they face stereotypes. Ms. Abedrabbo and her husband, Omar Abedrabbo, are from the Middle East. They still have to field misconceptions that Muslims in the Middle East all have an oil well, sleep in the desert in a tent, ride camels and all have dark, swarthy skin rather than a rich medley of hues and features that make up Muslims.

But the Abedrabbo family would rather be kind and forgiving than rigid and vengeful.

After Sept. 11, life for the members of the Muslim community became challenging and uncertain at times.

A Fort Myers resident threatened the Abedrabbos two years ago at their business, the Sahara Market, in Fort Myers. The man, James Benjamin Jones, had threatened the local grocer as well as another local grocer. The man pleaded guilty to the threats.

Though the action didn’t push the Abedrabbos out of their business, it was disconcerting and unnerving to the parents of five.

So they try to create a positive environment for their children, the customers and the community.

“I try to give them a smile to break the wall between us,” Ms. Abedrabbo, 38, said.

Ms. Abedrabbo can be spotted at her family-owned business that includes a hair wig shop, helping people select hairpieces or food for Islamic families. She flutters around her shops wearing her hijab and calling after her young daughter who plays with her toys in the back of the store.

Fighting the fear

MS. ABEDRABBO, DURING A CONVERSAtion at her shop in Fort Myers, spoke of her choice to wear a hijab, and the joy of being able to relax with her female friends.

Her daughter Layla was coming to the shop to talk about having difficulty registering for classes at Florida South- Western State College. Dina said she was busy as her husband was out of the country for a few weeks. “Women have to be strong,” she says.

Layla, 18, said most of her friends understand her faith and accept her for her. She scrolled through her cell phone showing me pictures of her and friends goofing around and enjoying their youth. But she said she stills gets a little scared to wear a hijab at an area grocery store. And she must deal with classmates who get leery with the Arabic term “Allahu akbar” or God is great. A young man in her class connected the phrase with meaning someone has a bomb.

Dina just shook her head.

“There are some ignorant people,” she said.

But Dina detailed how she and other Muslim friends look forward to sharing their faith and lives with others in the community. During Ramadan — which starts in mid-May, people are often invited to break the fast at area mosques and homes.

“Fear is everything,” Dr. Considine said. “We have to overcome our fears. You have to be brave.”

He suggests something as simple as eating together within communities. He said his students benefit greatly from participating in a dine and dialog program.

“The first step in forming better relations with people is breaking bread,” he said. “It’s got to happen at a very human level. It has to start there.”

Some area Muslims are giving a dose of love in their day-to-day interactions within the community.

Ms. Mohammed, 70, works two days a week in a gastrointestinal clinic in Port Charlotte. Originally from Trinidad, the bubbly, soft-spoken medical provider is quick to laugh and share stories. She shakes her head when she recalls some of the experiences of living a Muslim life in Southwest Florida. Her voice is punctuated with sighs as she talks about a female patient who upon seeing her hijab told her “you’re scaring me.” The woman went on to tell Ms. Mohammed about how hard American women fought for rights to not have to wear a head garment, or in her eyes, not be oppressed. Ms. Mohammed asked her if she would like to see another nurse. The woman told her she didn’t scare her that much to require a different care provider.

In another patient interchange, Ms. Mohammed attended to a big, burly male motorcyclist covered with tattoos who looked at her as if she was from another planet. He point-blank asked her why she was wearing a head covering? When she told she was Muslim and explained a little bit about her faith he responded with surprise.

He gave her a big hug that encompassed her tiny frame and said, “I will never again believe everything I see on TV.”

And at this, Ms. Mohammed said this is what it’s all about — showing the world that Muslims are good people.

“Were not what you see on TV,” she said. “This is what we’re trying to do is reach out to the community.”

Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, the senior rabbi at Bat Yam Temple of the Islands on Sanibel and a lifelong social activist, author and teacher worldwide, has worked with Imam Al-Darsani on interfaith work. The two stood side-by-side protesting at a local Wendy’s fast food restaurant this past season. They were supporting Immokalee farm workers.

“We’re walking together,” Rabbi Fuchs said. “It doesn’t matter that he’s Muslim and I am Jewish.”

Respect for difference and finding a common thread is what weaves the community together.

“This planet is getting smaller and smaller,” Rabbi Fuchs said. “We all have to live together.”

Learning about each other is vital to creating harmony.

For some, like Lubna Alam of Fort Myers, the need to educate is compulsory and almost a religious obligation. She has created a kind of basic Islam 101 Power- Point program that she presents at area churches and community centers. Her program is straightforward, detailing facts and information about the Islamic faith with a question and answer session afterwards. The class seems to draw the curious and the questioning. During a recent session at All Faiths Unitarian Congregation in Fort Myers she fielded questions about Muslim life and the faith. Questions ranged from modesty and dress to Islamic radicalism. Ms. Alam answered all questions with patience and detail — even the ones that were a bit rattling. When one gentleman peppered Ms. Alam about Muslim women in relation to being oppressed she expressed that most Muslim women choose to wear a hijab or head covering and that most feel free and not oppressed in their Muslim womanhood.

Along with the educational programs, Ms. Mussalet and others believe in helping the community better understand the inherent goodness of the Muslim people by showing them through charity and acts of kindness. After Hurricane Irma, Ms. Mussalet and friends gathered emergency supplies and delivered them to people hard-hit in Immokalee. On a regular basis Ms. Mussalet, her family and fellow friends and congregants in Port Charlotte donate blood, feed the homeless and help build homes for the needy with the Habitat for Humanity organization. Giving of yourself and your resources is a tenet of the Muslim faith.

“We try very hard,” said Ms. Mussalet. “I want people to love each other.” ¦

Program about Muslims available

Lubna Alam of Fort Myers is a Muslim who grew up in Pakistan. To share knowledge about the Islam faith and culture, she presents programs to churches and groups throughout Southwest Florida. To request information or a program from Ms. Alam, contact her by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call her at 920- 470-2394. Her facebook page is Muslim Women Council of SWFL.

Muslim facts

Islam is the name of the religion. A person who practices Islam is known as a Muslim. The adjective “Islamic” usually refers to objects and places, not people. The term “Mohammedanism” is an outdated term for the faith and is usually considered insulting.

Mohammad ibn Abd Allah was born around A.D. 570 in Mecca, Arabia (present-day Saudi Arabia) and died on June 8, 632, in Medina, Arabia. He claimed that when he was 40 years old, he received his first revelation from God.

Famous Muslims in America include Janet Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Shaquille O’Neal, Mara Brock Akil (writer/producer of the series “The Game” and “Girlfriends”), Mos Def (Yasiin Bey), Mike Tyson, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, Ice Cube, Akon, and Anousheh Ansari, the first Muslim woman in space.

Women’s group meets weekly

Samera Musallet encourages women who would like to connect and learn about Muslim life to come to the Islamic Community of Southwest Florida in Port Charlotte located on Harborview Road from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday. The sessions, for women only, include a lecture, discussion, coffee and food. “We want people to come,” she said. “We’re one big melting pot.” Ms. Mussalet and others like her are convinced that love and kindness will bring everyone together despite differences. “There is such good people in the world,” she said.

Muslim facts

The basic beliefs one must have in order to be considered a Muslim include a belief in the One God; all the prophets of God; the original scriptures revealed to Prophets Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad; the angels; the Day of Judgment and the Hereafter; and the divine decree or destiny.

Although Muslims are often associated with the Arab world, fewer than 15 percent of Muslims are Arabs. Muslims are found among virtually all ethnic groups, nationalities and countries.

Five million to 8 million Muslims live in the United States, and there are over 1,200 mosques. Muslims have been a part of the cultural landscape in America for the past 200 years.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.

Muslims celebrate two great Islamic holidays. The first is Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast of Ramadan, and the second is the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice.

Muslims believe there are five actions that they should perform. These are known as the Five Pillars of Islam: Shahada (the declaration of faith), Salat (the duty to pray five times a day), Zakat (giving to charity), Siyam (fasting during the month of Ramadan) and Hajj (making a pilgrimage to Mecca).