Miami-Dade County

South Florida Muslims invite U.S. Rep Joe Garcia, community to share faith for Ramadan

Shortly after sundown Monday night, Deming Schulberg found herself engulfed in the Islamic faith.

Before heading inside the Masjid an Noor mosque to answer a call to prayer, she nibbled on dates, strawberries and grapes.

“I feel welcome here,” said Schulberg, a Kendall resident whose hair was covered in a tan hijab, a headscarf.

Schilberg was one of several non-Muslims who attended an open house at the mosque, including the iftar dinner, the name of the nightly meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims refrain from drinking and eating from sunrise to sunset.

The fourth annual community iftar event has religious significance, but it also packs a social meaning.

Politicians, clergy members of different faith, residents and others attended the event to take part in the breaking of fast ceremony, which takes places nightly during the holy month at Masjid an Noor in West Kendall.

“It is a testament to the incredible strength of our nation’s religious tolerance that we gathered here today from different walks of life to celebrate the breaking of the Ramadan fast,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia. “We realize that our nation may come first but we have many things to work towards. A day when no longer it’s their America or my America, but, in reality, it’s our America. That’s a day when we will truly find peace.”

Garcia was one of several local leaders who attended the event.

After the breaking of the fast and prayer, the group of nearly 200 Muslims and non-Muslims gathered under a white tent for a meal featuring lamb, with rice pudding for dessert.

“We want them to share with us some experiences,” said Imam Zakaria Badat. “Yes, we have different beliefs, different ways of worship but we all are living in this country.”

For the Imam and other Muslims who attend the masjid, getting recognition from the community is important.

“For a while muslims lived a closed box,” said Shabbir Motorwala, of the Coalition of South Florida Muslims Organization, an organization that helped coordinate the event.

“I think this is great for them to come in and view the mosque and interact with the Muslim. We can tell the world what we do at the mosque.”

Schulberg is glad she shared the experience.

“It really kind of put me into their position and really understand their religion and their prayers from their perspective,” she said. “While I didn’t understand what was being said, the way it felt was peaceful. It was a peaceful traditional thing they were doing.”

Although Badat said most people are respectful to the Muslim community, there have been some acts of violence at the mosque against their presence.

In 2009 a shooting occurred at the mosque leaving some 50 bullets on the building's north side.

No one was injured in the incident and no arrests have been made, according to Nidal Hozien, chair-Islamic School of Miami/Masjid An Noor.

Prior to that there have been incidents where swastikas have been drawn on the walls of the center, or rocks thrown.

He said those events reinforce the importance of these events.

“It’s like we are that neighbor you never talk to,” Hozien said. “We want to let the neighborhood know we are, not a threat and we want to live in this country.”