Breaking of Bread and, hopefully, stereotypes

by Chanel Davis

Zaki Khalifa, owner of Zaki Oriental Rugs on S. Main St, speaks to attendees about Ramadan and his experience in the city.

The focus was on food, faith and fellowship at Friday’s Community Ramadan Dinner.The dinner, held at Macedonia Resource Center on Lake Avenue, was hosted by High Point’s Human Relations Commission and sponsored by the Divan Center and Community Mosque of High Pont in an effort to promote understanding, awareness and fellowship among residents while engaging in friendly conversation.”This particular iftar is really just about building community and celebrating the diversity that we have in the city of High Point and coming together to share friendship and food and get to know each other a little bit better,” said Jennifer Brandt, chairwoman of the Human Relations Commission. “One of the things we want this to be is an educational opportunity. We have speakers discussing a little bit about what Ramadan is and how it’s celebrated in that faith. As an educator, I always think it’s really important to learn about the folks that make up our community and about different cultures so that we can learn from our differences. A lot of times, once we have these dialogues and get to know each other and our neighbors, we find out that we’re really not that different after all.”Ramadan is a period of fasting, reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice observed by Muslims. Those who practice the faith abstain from food, drink and other physical needs during the daylight hours, recognizing one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Fasting.During this period, Muslims eat a pre-dawn meal called a suhoor and break the fast after sunset each day with a meal known as iftar, shared with family and friends. It begins with eating dates to give participants a quick energy boost.”One of the important things in Ramadan is to share food and break bread with others regardless of their religion or faith,” said Commissioner Fatih Oguz. “I think this a good opportunity for our communities to get together, get to know each other and learn from each other. I think these kinds of events are important to build bridges and keep those bridges strong.”True to tradition, there were dates on the table while classrooms throughout the facility were turned into prayer rooms. Speakers reflected on the importance of Ramadan and the community as they waited for the 8:40 p.m. sunset.”One of the things that I’m excited about living in High Point is that we’re known as the international city and I think that’s a really great thing. We have furniture market which is wonderful and brings people from all over the world but we have an international city the rest of the year too,” Brandt said. “So celebrating the rich diversity that we have in the city year round that makes High Point so great is really important.”Resident Elshad Abdullayev said that he often encourages his Muslim friends to take the opportunity to socialize with their neighbors and coworkers.”I strongly believe that Muslims in this society have to socialize with local residents because right now there’s an ultimate misunderstanding about Islam amongst residents. This is partly because Muslims do not socialize well with local residents and as a result there is a misunderstanding,” Abdullayev said. “I believe these type of events creates an opportunity for sharing values between communities. It gives us a chance to share our view while letting the community know about us. That’s very important.”He said that there are a lot of factors that creates the isolation of Muslim residents, but most often it’s due to years of oppression.”Generally, Muslims are coming from dictatorship countries where they’re being oppressed so it makes them cautious and they are more hesitant to interact. Another is a difference in the cultures. They come here and don’t assimilate easily to the local culture. As a result, they tend to socialize among their own society rather than with the others in the community.”Which makes having the events even more important to Oguz.”I think partnering with other community organizations helps to make these events more powerful and stronger in terms of reaching a much larger and diverse community,” he said. “We all work toward the same goal, which is how can we make our city comfortable and livable for everyone. If we partner, we can get a lot more done.”Brandt agrees and said that although the commission does six-month work plans she hopes they’ll be hosting similar events in different communities throughout the city.”The goal is to really highlight all of the diverse communities that make up High Point,” she said.