A Ramadan Wish

The Boston Globe has published some stunning photos of Muslims in the month of Ramadan -- take a look! The pictures capture the visual essence of Ramadan, and the sense that Muslims worldwide are united and spiritually active during this holy month.

Consider the amazing scene which has been happening outside my home each evening in Ramadan. In the short period between 7:30 and 8 p.m., the quiet streets and vacant lots fill with thousands of people. They form row after row of neat lines for prayer, and from my living room window's vantage point, my neighborhood has the appearance and feeling of Mecca during hajj season.

The people have come together to observe the nightly Tarawih prayers. These many, many people praying outdoors are the overflow from our neighborhood mosque.

My youngest children like to look out at this sea of people before going to bed. As I look with them, I'm always humbled by the thought that what I see is just my little corner of existence. All throughout Morocco -- in fact, all throughout the Muslim world -- other mosques and streets are also overflowing.

It's staggering, really, to contemplate how many millions of people worldwide come together every night for the simple and pure purpose of prayer in Ramadan. It's a powerful few hours, when it's easy to remember the real spirit of this month is to humble oneself in prayer and charitable acts, and learn patience, self-discipline, and compassion for those who do without basic needs year-round.

It was nice to see some of this essence captured and published by the Globe. But while looking through the pictures, I was struck by the images of Palestinians being prevented from entering Jerusalem to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque. They contrast sharply with the other images of people who have the freedom to observe a peaceful Ramadan.

But let's not forget that the Palestinians aren't the only Muslims being oppressed this Ramadan. In Azerbaijan, the overflow of Muslim worshippers are prohibited from praying outside their mosques. In China, Uyghur Muslims are forbidden from observing Tarawih prayers or growing beards. And I'm sure there are more -- they're just not making headlines.

My Ramadan wish, then, is not only that Muslims keep the Ramadan spirit year round, but that oppressed Muslims be allowed to experience peaceful prayer and unification in the first place. It's hard to imagine being denied such a simple and meaningful right..

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About Christine Benlafquih

Christine (Amina) Benlafquih is a freelance writer whose work includes articles, opinion pieces, personal essays and occasional fiction and poetry. A former publications and public relations director, she earned a B.A. in Journalism from Duquesne University in 1987. Originally from Rochester, NY, she has also lived in Pittsburgh, PA, the Washington, DC area, and now resides in Casablanca, Morocco. Her experiences as an American convert to Islam, both in the United States and in Morocco, serve as inspiration to much of her work. She is particularly concerned about the biased portrayal of Arabs and Muslims in the media, and about the division and labeling that occurs among Muslims themselves. Christine is a member of the Islamic Writers Alliance (IWA) and the Muslim American Journalists Association (MAJA). She is married and the mother of six children.

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