Muslims, Christians, Hindus & Sikhs Break Bread Together

By Ras H. Siddiqui

As Muslims continue to observe the Islamic month of Ramadan with great fervor, Hindus are preparing themselves for the Festival of Lights or Diwali worldwide. And while the two occasions are celebrated in their own unique way in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka where these religions have co-existed for over a millennium, a local Northern California group called the “Friends of South Asia” (or FOSA as it is known) has continued its quest to foster inter-religious community relations by holding a combined Iftar (the Ramadan breaking of the fast at sunset) and Diwali celebration.

A section of the audience
Such an effort was underway at the Milpitas Library Community Hall on Saturday, November 6, 2004 as the event started off with the traditional Muslim sharing of dates, along with a number of Indian and Pakistani delicacies that have now become a standard for this occasion in South Asia. “Namaz” was held soon after the breaking of the fast as the President of UMA Interfaith, Mr. Iftikhar Hai ,led the congregation of men and women in prayer.

The consumption of various appetizers continued as FOSA’s member Usman Qazi proceeded to give the gathering an introduction to the organization which had come into prominence due to the many peace vigils held during the year 2002 when India and Pakistan appeared to be poised for war (causing much anguish amongst the South Asian community here in the United States). FOSA has teamed up with another South Asian organization called EKTA and others in the past as it continues to promote its wish for peace and prosperity in that part of the world and harmony everywhere.

During the past couple of years, freedom of religion has also been a part of FOSA’s agenda. And it has promoted peace in the region by showing “Crossing the Lines: Kashmir, Pakistan and India,” a Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian film on the plight of the Kashmiri people and the regional ramifications of this half-a-century India-Pakistan conflict. In the cultural arena playwright Shahid Nadeem has been a guest of this organization and it has teamed up with other groups (3rd I) to show a “Traveling Film South Asia” screening in this part of California.

The effort overall at this Iftar/Diwali was to share common values and to keep up hope for good relations between the major faiths practiced in the South Asian region as Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs broke bread together, not once but twice. Those who had already over-indulged in the breaking of the fast were once again served food as a full dinner greeted the participants. (A “Guess Who?” game was also played during which individuals were tagged on their backs with names of famous personalities and tried to figure out who they were).

Looking ahead it appears that the Hindu Diwali festival is falling on November 12 this year as Eid-ul-Fitr will fall on either November 13 or 14. This sure is going to be a festive period for South Asians worldwide. So let us end here with the hope that good sense continues to prevail in that part of the world and that the message of FOSA and like-minded groups becomes permanently embedded in the ruling mindset of the region. May the spirit of Eid and the light of Diwali together touch all of us wherever we may be.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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