Ignored in family meetings or engagement with the community, American Muslim converts lack a sense of belonging and feel alone while celebrating the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
“I see how the new Muslims are kind of ignored,” Vaqar Sharief, a former new Muslims coordinator for the Islamic Society of Delaware, told Huffington Post.
“Many of them stop coming and they leave the religion.”
Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in North America on Tuesday, July 9.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims hold family gatherings to break their fast together.
But this leaves many converts feel isolated as many Muslims forget to invite them to join iftar to give them the sense of being in a one family.
Paul K. DeMelto from Cleveland reverted to Islam last year.
He has attended courses for converts to better understand the teachings of Islam and hired Arab tutors to help him learn to read the Noble Qur’an.
The 40-year-old baker has also changed his lifestyle and quit drinking alcohol to be a good Muslim.
But he is still finding major difficulties in cultivating new Muslim friends.
His isolation is particularly acute during Ramadan, when he feels like a Christian alone on Christmas.
“The one thing that I expected to experience more fully in turning to Islam was engagement in a community,” said DeMelto.
Fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.
In Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.
Converts complain that they feel isolation and lack a sense of belonging after their conversion.
“The concept of being together and uniting is something very important,” said Imam Talal Eid of Quincy, Mass.
Caroline Williams, a Muslim convert, said she often had the impression that Muslims were friendly and sociable.
“Part of what drew me in was how welcoming everybody was at the mosque,” said Williams, a 32-year-old New Orleans resident who converted in 2010.
But she said that she now feels ignored and left out at major holidays by fellow Muslims.
The exclusion is attributed to different reasons as a lack of knowledge about co-religionists who are lonely.
“Being invited to private homes isn’t common, and can be the loneliest experience of all when people speak their native language, leaving us to read or stare at the ceiling,” said Nadja Adolf of Newark, Calif., who converted in 2001.
For Kelly Kaufman echoes a similar opinion.
“It’s an incredibly lonely experience that I don’t think many people know about,” said Kaufman, who converted in 2010.
Extending a help hand to converts, Kaufman set up a website where Chicago-area converts and other Muslims can contact each other and post helpful articles about prayer, Arabic lessons, or Islamic dos and don’ts.
Some Muslims suggest that converts should go to mosques that hold communal iftar dinners and try to make friends there.
“People are friendly, but I don’t feel like I’m family,” said Williams, who worships at Masjid Abu Bakr Al Siddique in New Orleans.
She said she misses having the kind of close relationship that involves dinner invitations and long, deep talks.
Stepping in to help converts fee they are a family member, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the largest mosque in New England, holds monthly “Convert-sations” meetings.
Sharief and his wife hold classes at their Delaware mosque that teach new converts how to pray and other Islamic fundamentals.
“You have to make these people feel part of the family,” said Sharief.
“Ramadan is a great opportunity. You have to make them feel special.”
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