For the past 14 years, Muslims have gathered at the California State Capitol for one day during Ramadan to break their day-long fast. Monday night, the community celebrated the 15th year of this tradition.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. When they finally break their fast, it’s called iftar. It’s usually broken with a date, or a different fruit, and some water or a yogurt drink. Then, for the rest of the night, people eat snacks and sweets. At dawn, everyone gathers together for suhoor, the meal before fasting starts again.
Hundreds of California Muslims and legislators crowded into the basement of the Capitol. Most had been fasting all day, but the group was loud and boisterous as community members met each other as old friends and guests struck up conversations with each other.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has hosted this event for years in an effort to educate people about the Muslim faith. Yannina Casillas, their Legislative and Government Affairs Coordinator, says this event is also a way to appreciate the accomplishments Muslim-Americans have made so far.
“You know, when our nation is a little divided on politics, it’s nice to see the California State Capitol being able to host an event celebrating Ramadan and the contributions of Muslims,” Casillas says.
CAIR is working with lawmakers on a wide range of bills that tackle anti-bullying efforts in schools and immigration reform, but Casillas says the evening is all about reflection and celebration.
“This is event is really just about coming together as a community and recognizing the contributions of the Muslim community, but also celebrating diversity and cultural exchange,” she says.
Lawmakers from across the state came for the event, including Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu and Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula.
“It shows that we have a presence, and we are here and we’re here in numbers,” says Maheen Ahmed, Arambula’s legislative aid. “And it’s not just iftar, and it’s not breaking a fast that we’re doing, but this is just one way of us coming together and having our community build power, so that hopefully we can be in solidarity and influence policy as well.”
Ahmed says Muslims aren’t usually represented in American politics and therefore don’t have much influence. But nights like these, she says, paints a different picture as lawmakers and Muslims alike gather around crowded tables to share a meal.