Seattle-area Muslims see chance to show what true Islam means, during first Ramadan of Trump era

Ramadan is a time of giving, praying and fasting that some Muslims compare to Christmas for Christians. But this year — the first since the election of Donald Trump — feels different for many Muslims in Washington.

Chema Jamel Oh brings her local tour guests to a marble wall covered in Arabic calligraphy.

“That’s my favorite,” Jamel Oh says, pointing to the inscribed verses of the Muslim holy book, the Quran. “It basically summarizes what Islam is about: ‘I do not worship that which you worship, nor do you worship that which I worship. … You have your beliefs, and I have mine.’”

Jamel Oh is leading a tour of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), the largest mosque in the Puget Sound area. The guests range from Catholic parishioners to agnostics, and Jamel Oh trades jokes and quizzes them on Abrahamic religions.

This is the final week of Ramadan, the holy month during which Muslims don’t eat while the sun is up, and the mosque is packed for Iftar, the ceremony at sundown where fasting Muslims eat for the first time all day. But this Iftar is different — the congregation at MAPS has opened the mosque to nonbelievers for all to join in a night of discussion and celebration. And though Jamel Oh and her colleagues are smiling and joking, security guards stand post in and outside the mosque, some wearing bulletproof vests.

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Muslims have been in the news a lot, first with the election of Donald Trump, who called for a ban on Muslims entering the country during his campaign last year, and more recently with attacks on Muslims, including an attack on Muslims leaving prayer in London and a Portland incident on May 26 that ended in two fatal stabbings when bystanders stepped in.

Though many Muslims in America have become accustomed to incidents of harassment over the years, Ramadan has become a time to reach out and show their non-Muslim…

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