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Safety and sadness: Afghan refugees observe their first Ramadan in the US

Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

LOS ANGELES — Last year, Maqsood Maqsoud celebrated Ramadan, a time of reflection, piety and charity, in the city of Kabul, where he grew up.

He heard the adhan, the call to prayer, broadcast from a nearby mosque. He broke his daily Ramadan fast with dates in the two-story compound where he lived with his parents, younger brothers, wife and newborn daughter.

That was before the United States began withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan. Before the Taliban began systematically taking over provinces and cities. Before Maqsoud's fear grew that his work with the Marines, which had nearly killed him once, would now kill him for sure.

Last Saturday night, Maqsoud broke fast in a San Diego hotel at the start of Islam's holiest month. He heard the adhan sound from a cellphone. He knelt on white bedsheets to pray.

It was the 31-year-old's first Ramadan meal in the U.S. after he, his wife and their daughter fled Kabul in August. He spent the evening with half a dozen other refugees and the Marine who helped him escape.

"As long as we're all together, we don't feel like we're separated from family," Maqsoud said as he held his 15-month-old daughter. "It feels good."

 

Thousands of refugees who have left Afghanistan since summer are celebrating Ramadan in the U.S. Some are marking the holiday from their new apartments, others from hotel rooms, as resettlement organizations struggle to find them permanent housing in an expensive market.

In an attempt to bring the newcomers some semblance of home, the San Diego Afghan Refugees Aid Group hosted iftar, the sunset meal to break the fast, in the hotel. The grass-roots organization plans to hold the meal at other hotels in the area where refugees are staying and to find volunteers to take them to nearby mosques to pray.

"We want them to feel a sense of community, even though it's their first Ramadan by themselves," said Zulaikha Rahim, secretary of the group and a first-generation Afghan American. "We want to make them feel at home, even though their new normal looks very different."

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