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Kinship and community

Moorestown Muslims group draws different faiths

Special to The Sun: The Bring a Friend to Iftar event was designed to have members of a different belief or faith see what Ramadan fasting means. All proceeds went to Baba Grill in Cinnaminson – where the event was held – for the meals earlier this month. Board members Hafeza Shaikh (left), Lena Siddiqi, Shahrukh Mirza, Shazia Riaz, Alia Jafry and Aysha Hasan smile for a group photo.

Moorestown Muslims hosted Bring a Friend to Iftar earlier this month, an event that brought people of different faiths together.

“Moorestown Muslims is a relatively new organization, so this is our second event that we’ve done, so we’re excited to have the opportunity to have another event where we can introduce ourselves to the broader community in Moorestown,” said Alia Jafry, board member of the nonprofit.

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The Muslim group made treats last year for those in need at Cambridge Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, an event of which Shahrukh Mirza, president of Moorestown Muslims, was happy to be a part.

“Our presence is definitely here,” she told The Sun. “The impact that we’re hoping to make is to normalize our presence in the normalcy, in the lifestyles that we carry.”

The organization was founded last year around the time state testing for Moorestown students was scheduled during Ramadan, a month-long Muslim holiday that involves fasting, praying and being around loved ones. Aysha Hasan, a board member of Moorestown Muslims, explained the long-term goals she and other members hope to accomplish with the nonprofit.

“We wanted to just create a sense of kinship and community feel for the next generation,” she explained, “so that they felt proud and happy to be who they are as a neighbor, as a student, as a colleague, as a friend, without having to feel that it was something different, especially after Islam grew to being the second largest religion in the world.”

According to muslimaid.org, Iftar is the meal for which Muslims break their fast at sunset, and it is said to bring blessings, especially for those who make arrangements for the meal for others.

Moorestown Muslims’ Bring a Friend to Iftar was designed to have members of a different belief or faith see what fasting means. All proceeds went to Baba Grill in Cinnaminson – where the event was held – for the meals.

“I think one of the reasons this was really interesting and really important for me to join this group of ladies and ultimately this community of people … is driven by the importance I place on my kids feeling like they’re included in the community,” Jafry noted. 

“All of our kids should feel like they have a space and a group of people that they can call allies, regardless of what their faith is or what their backgrounds are.”

According to the website, Ramadan fasting provides Muslims with a multitude of opportunities, including renewing one’s identity. It isn’t an individual experience, but one that is shared throughout the entire community.

“The event (was) held to try to make everybody feel more comfortable when you see, perhaps, your friend not eating lunch at the lunch table in the cafeteria, or perhaps when you see someone not drinking water,” Hasan explained, “and it’s just to bring an awareness of why they’re doing it.”

Jafry and Hasan shared a similar sentiment on what they hope people took away from Bring a Friend to Iftar and Moorestown Muslims.

“ … We are your neighbors and we are your colleagues and students alike, and we do have some religious and cultural differences that we partake in personally,” Hasan said, “but it does not affect anyone in any way whatsoever, and it’s a very harmonious, community-oriented act of kindness and self-reflection.”

“I think it’s just about definitely the experience of coming to an Iftar, which is a big part of our month for Ramadan, and the idea of doing an Iftar and what that entails,” Jafry pointed out. 

“ … I think, just to Aysha’s point, just (the) connectivity with our fellow neighbors, regardless of where they come from.”


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