By: M. Zuhdi Jasser
Islam’s holiest month, Ramadan, is a time for intense personal and community reflection. As we abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset, we are given an opportunity to feel a new level of gratitude for our blessings, as well as to share more of what we have with the less fortunate. No denials, no excuses.
As Americans, we are free to accept or reject any tenet of our individual religions. Individuals are also free to reject faith entirely without fear of state reprisal. As a practicing Muslim, I fast during Ramadan, observe the five daily prayers, give to charity, read Qur’anic scripture, and adhere to a range of guidelines prescribed by my faith, such as abstinence from alcohol and pork. I have practiced my faith not just as a civilian, but also as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy. I have never experienced any conflict between my American identity and my Muslim faith. If anything, the fact that we have the freedom to practice any religion or none makes me freer to practice my faith with sincerity than I would be in any Muslim-majority society where a particular interpretation of the faith is coerced. In many Muslim-majority societies, the fast is enforced by law or social coercion, prayer times are mandated, and work schedules are modified during the month of Ramadan.