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Muslim students host first Ramadan Tent Project in U.S.

Hillsboro residents among those organizing shared meal with community.


Editor’s Note: In the wake of Sunday’s mass shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and the ongoing national debate about gun control, Islam and terrorism, the first Ramadan Tent Project event in Washington County is serendipitously well-timed. Its organizers expect dozens of people to attend and learn more about the Muslim faith and way of life.

COURTESY PHOTO - On Sunday, several Muslim students visited Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton to talk about the upcoming First Ramadan Tent Project Open Iftar in the United States, set this week at Southminster. They include, from left, Madina Karimyar (of Beaverton), Mohsen Assadi, Sadaf Assadi and Pastor John Shuck. Hillsboro resident Sadaf Assadi has long been impressed with the Ramadan Tent ProjectRamadan Tent Project, a London-based event designed to build bridges each year by bringing Muslims and non-Muslims together to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

So Assadi, who just finished her third year as a dental student at Oregon Health and Science University, thought about starting something similar and reached out to John Shuck, a minister at Southminster Presbyterian ChurchSouthminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton, asking about creating a localized version of the international event.

Shuck said a flurry of emails followed with the minister immediately liking the idea of holding the first Ramadan Tent Project Open Iftar in the United States with plans to host the event on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 17-19, on the back lawn of Southminster Presbyterian Church beginning at 8:30 p.m. all three evenings. Food for the iftar (the meal eaten to break one’s fast) will be offered as well as social interaction and education about Islam. The church is located at 12250 S.W. Denney Road, just across the street from the Islamic Center of Portland on Hall Boulevard.

Assadi said RamadanRamadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims because it’s when the Qur’an was revealed and those who are healthy and able fast from sunrise to sunset every day for the entire month.

“With all the negativity and fear associated with Islam, we want to show the true face of Islam to our community,” Assadi said in a news release. “Islam is a beautiful and peaceful religion, and that is why we have decided to bring Ramadan Tent Project to the United States.”

Assadi is joined by eight other organizers of the Ramadan Tent Project, all of whom are local college students, except for one organizer who recently graduated.

In addition to Assadi, the other organizing members include Aisha Saradi, who will join the OHSU School of Dentistry in August as a first-year dental student; Tahmeena Raheel, a first-year pharmacy student at Pacific University; Hanan Al-Zubaidy, who graduated last year from Portland State University with a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing sciences and is currently working at a Montessori school; Mohsen Assadi and Marwah Kasimi, who are both pre-dental students at Portland State; Tahmina Karimyar, who is a pre-medicine student and Madina Karimyar, who is a pre-nursing student at Portland State; and Abdulaziz (Zezo) Hassan, a civil engineering student at Portland State University.

Pastor Shuck said since his church is across the street from the Islamic Center of Portland, he has had interaction with the center numerous times over the years including being invited to the center to celebrate the birthdays of both Jesus and Muhammad. In turn, Shuck has invited center members over to Southminster Presbyterian Church for events there as well.

“We feel it’s really important to build up relationships,” he said.

Southminster Presbyterian Church’s has a history as a welcoming community of Christian faith with a goal to include, not exclude.

Assadi agrees that the church and mosque have a really good relationship with each other and that the planned event is an important way of bringing everyone together.

“I think it’s something our community really needs,” she said, noting that in the end, “we’re all Americans.”

Abdelaziz “Zezo” Hassan, one of the organizers who is a Southwest Portland resident, said hosting the event is a progressive step for his community. He said that in Egypt and other Muslim countries, such events are “hosted or facilitated by individuals who are financially or physically able to feed those who are fasting or anyone passing wishing to join.”

“They’re meant to spread values of community and the festivity of Ramadan. For our project, however, it’s a little bit more than that,” said Hassan. “It’s introducing a seemingly different perspective to the value of community. Not only are we feeding fasting Muslims, we are creating a space that showcases values of Islam in the welcoming of all faiths (or lack thereof) and all the opportunities to create dialogue around how it’s very contradicting to what comes up on the media.”

Hassan said the Ramadan Tent Project organizers are “steering the wheel of the project, the whole vehicle is driven by the community.”

Meanwhile, Assadi’s brother, Mohsen Assadi, also a Hillsboro resident, said he found himself on board regarding this week’s event when his sister suggested it last year, finding it a “great way to help our community and make a difference.”

“Due to all the violence and shootings that have occurred recently, this event is a great way to educate people that Islam is not a religion of violence but one that promotes peace and love,” said Mohsen Assadi. “We hope that people realize how much we condemn violence and that the actions of a few do not portray the beliefs of billions.”

He said he hopes the event shows others in the community a desire to bridge the gap between the Muslim community and those of other faiths.

While the group is in the process of finalizing food for the iftar, Sadaf Assadi said plans are to have various meat, rice and hummus dishes.

Anyone who would like to donate funds to purchase supplies for the event can do so by going to: paypal.me/MohsenA.

“I think we’re going to get a really big crowd,” said Sadaf Assadi. “I think it will be a memorable experience.”