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Ramadan Begins, Muslims Adapt To COVID-19

Courtesy photo

For Muslims, today is the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

WKAR’s Scott Pohl talks with Sohail Chaudhry, Imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing, about how COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are changing things this year.

IMAM SOHAIL CHAUDHRY: In regular circumstances, Ramadan is, since it's such a great month and there's a lot of waiting for it all year long, there's a lot of celebration, especially the first day of Ramadan. People are very excited. There's a lot of coming to the Islamic Center, the mosque. There's a lot of prayer in the first night, there's a lot of exchange of greetings and hugging each other and exchanging gifts, writing cards to each other, and just visiting each other with the smiles all over and congratulating each other and your families.

SCOTT POHL: All of that, of course, is different. Tell me about the current status of the mosque and how you intend to proceed on the first day of Ramadan this year.

CHAUDHRY: Currently, the mosque is closed due to the COVID-19 situation and since the Governor closed down everything and, you know, we're in a state of lockdown, trying to protect ourselves and our families and others from the spread of this virus. The first day of Ramadan will look very different this year, unlike any Ramadan that I've ever witnessed in my life, and I'm sure a lot of other people have in their lives. It will be all over the phone greetings and sending each other e-cards, which is very different, emailing each other, texting each other, reminding each other of the beautiful month that is awaiting us. And then, all the prayers and all the programming is switched to online platforms.

POHL: We recently in the Christian world experienced Holy Week and Easter. I want to ask you what you have observed about how Christian churches have been conducting themselves and how Muslims are doing things in the same way or perhaps differently.

CHAUDHRY: You know, most of the religious communities around the world right now are in a pretty similar situation. We're all kind of just switching our programming on through the computer and using technology instead of congregating at the places of worship, so it's no different I think for the Muslim community as well. We'll have to learn how to engage with each other and uphold our spiritual worship and values using other platforms, alternative means.

POHL: We've seen a lot of churches taking part in food drives and other activities that are meant to support the community, even those who are not members of their particular faith. Has the local Muslim community been taking part in those sorts of activities?

CHAUDHRY: Absolutely. We've had food drives, which is like a drive thru at the Islamic Center parking lot where we are distributing lunches twice a week. More recently, we've also distributed free boxes of dates, because dates are used in the month of Ramadan for fasting. We are distributing free copies of the Quran, and decorations for Ramadan for all community members, Muslim and non-Muslim.

POHL: Have you heard of any incidents of discrimination in your community during the coronavirus pandemic?

CHAUDHRY: I have not heard of any incidents regarding discrimination in our community. I think the Greater Lansing community and especially East Lansing, we are very, very close to each other as a community and we're receiving a lot of letters, a lot of phone messages of support and love and people greeting us for Ramadan, and our Facebook page getting a lot of positive messaging. So, I think it's just a great community to be part of.

Scott Pohl has maintained an on-call schedule reporting for WKAR following his retirement after 36 years on the air at the station.
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