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 A NATION CHALLENGED: RAMADAN; Muslims See Acceptance and Scrutiny as Holy Month Nears

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PostSubject: A NATION CHALLENGED: RAMADAN; Muslims See Acceptance and Scrutiny as Holy Month Nears   Sat Jul 02, 2011 2:17 pm

A NATION CHALLENGED: RAMADAN; Muslims See Acceptance and Scrutiny as Holy Month Nears
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: November 16, 2001

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In past years, American Muslims say, they could celebrate Ramadan -- an entire month of fasting from sunup to sundown -- without their non-Muslim colleagues and neighbors ever noticing.

With the holy month set to begin on Friday or Saturday, depending on when designated clerics sight the new moon, American Muslims say that this will be a Ramadan unlike any other. Their religion, their beliefs and their behavior are attracting unprecedented scrutiny -- from people they know, from total strangers, from the news media and from the government.

Some of the attention is positive. The terrorist attacks have made some non-Muslims increasingly knowledgeable about and accepting of Islam.

Ekram Haque, a software tester active with the Islamic Association of Raleigh, said he was shocked when his employer approached him and asked if he needed any special accommodation for Ramadan.

''This is the first instance in which a supervisor has come to me extending help,'' said Mr. Haque, who is originally from India. ''It was quite pleasing, to say the least, knowing that in the face of such adverse publicity against Islam, there is also this rather positive aspect.''
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But some of the attention has heightened Muslims' concerns.

This Ramadan, for example, some Muslims say they may avoid mosques known for preaching against Israel or collecting money for Palestinian causes.

''Up until now, people would go to the mosque closest to them, even if they didn't particularly like the speeches,'' said Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary and vice president of the Islamic Society of North America. ''I have a feeling from the conversations I've been having that people are going to be a little more selective in going to the one that fits their sentiments.''

In addition, government scrutiny is likely to have a direct effect on the Ramadan ritual of giving money to charity. This year, Muslims are aware that the government is investigating Islamic charities, looking for connections to Al Qaeda or other terrorist networks.

''Ramadan is a time when Muslims give away a lot of money in charity,'' Mr. Haque said, ''but because a lot of Islamic charitable institutions are being suspected of having ties with the accused terrorists, people are nervous about donating.''

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