Muslims Use Cultural Immersion To Mark Ramadan

For many Muslims, the end of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid, which commemorates a month of fasting, is near. During the past 30 days, Aman Ali has traveled to a different New York City mosque each night to break his fast, and says he now has a better understanding of the diversity in New York's Muslim population. Also, Yusuf Misdaq tells how he kept a blog throughout the holy month, each day posting a new poem, song or online video that explores his belief in the meaning of Ramadan.

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MANDALIT DEL BARCO, host:

Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-Ul-Fitr this weekend, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. For the past month, Muslims fasted from sunrise to sunset. And some Muslims found creative ways to draw religious inspiration during the Holy Month.

Yusuf Misdaq is an Afghan artist who moved to the U.S. from England. During Ramadan, he's created one new work of art everyday from music, paintings to poetry. He reads a little from one poem written on day 26 of Ramadan.

Mr. YUSUF MISDAQ (Artist): It is hard not to eat at least one baklava when your (unintelligible) sits a whole plate of them before you. And there are sweets everywhere, blinking and ringing down the decorated streets, our last day is dedicated to offering beauty, bounty, bribery, tests. The clouds are purple and overcast upon enchanted hearts that have magic and infinity running out of them.

Basically, I go home at nighttime or early in the morning after I wake up and pray and I sit there, literally, it's like there's a sun rising in my chest or something, and it's like fireworks shooting off in my head, and I just feel like this is amazing. I'm going to do something with it. So I'll take some of the instruments out, I'll start playing, I'll start layering tracks together and just singing, you know, whatever that comes out.

One of the songs is a harmonium piece in the Quran, the archangel Gabriel - Gibrael is mentioned quite a lot and they talk about his body taking up the whole horizon. And that's how big he was in comparison to this, like, this small human world that we live in right. So, I took that as an inspiration and I made this wordless song, which is basically just a strange sounds, singing and chanting.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MISDAQ: It's insane. I mean, during Ramadan, you might hear this a lot, but Muslims really look forward to it. And it's quite unique that you would look forward to not eating and not drinking. I'm fasting right now and I'm incredibly thirsty. But the point is that you get some kind of strange, strange energy. I've called a third energy. For me, it's perfect for art. For Eid, I have no idea what my next piece is going to be.

It could be anything. There's no way of knowing until the day comes. And I'm just going to be happy on Eid, but also sad that Ramadan is over for another year.

Mr. AMAN ALI: My name is Aman Ali(ph), and my friend Bassam Tariq(ph) and I are fasting during this month of Ramadan. And so far, we've gone to 26 different mosques. New York City's community is a really good representation of the Muslim population in the entire world. Because, you know, you have West African Mosques, you have Indonesian, Bosnian, Albanian, Bengali, Indian, Pakistani, Palestinian, Saudi, Yemenis, Turkish, African-American.

One thing that really took us back is how welcoming and how warm we are received when we come to these places. We've gotten to taste all sorts of different foods, whether it be soul food, you know. A couple of days ago we had some amazing catfish. Indonesian food had all sorts of, you know, fancy noodle dishes, and of course traditional South-Asian dishes, curry chicken, butter chicken. It's definitely been an experience. But to us, what makes the foods even better is the fact that we're eating these foods with our Muslim peers.

I'm still trying to figure out where exactly I want to spend Eid. One place that really caught my interest in particular this mosque in Brooklyn, they are going to have a cha cha dance line and they are going to bring a James Brown impersonator, so my (unintelligible), my diary.

(Soundbite of music)

DEL BARCO: Bloggers Aman Ali and Yusuf Misdaq on how they've been observing 30 days of Ramadan which ends this weekend for many Muslims. You can find links to their blogs and more of their work on our Web site. Visit the new npr.org and click on TELL ME MORE.

(Soundbite of music)

DEL BARCO: Still to come, in 1999, President Clinton granted clemency to 11 people seeking Puerto Rican independence.

Mr. ALBERTO RODRIGUEZ: Here I was, a Puerto Rican, I know my parents and my family in Puerto Rico (unintelligible) and here was a president of the United States saying that he was going to make Puerto Rico a state. That is really a good move.

DEL BARCO: Ten years later, one man speaks out. That's coming up on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Mandalit del Barco.

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