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'Vermont is a peaceful place': Reflections as Ramadan nears end

Fuad Al-Amoody is the Vice President of the Islamic Society of Vermont
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours/Al Jazeera
Fuad Al-Amoody is the Vice President of the Islamic Society of Vermont

The holy month of Ramadan ends on Tuesday. The extended holiday celebrates when the first books of the Quran were initially revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, some 1,400 years ago.

Practicing Muslims spend Ramadan fasting from dawn to sunset to practice spiritual discipline. It’s a time to pray, reflect, and celebrate — often in community.

Fuad Al-Amoody is the vice president of Islamic Society of Vermont, and he joined Vermont Public's Jenn Jarecki to discuss Ramadan and his own religious journey. This piece was produced for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio, if you're able. We’ve also provided a written version.

Jenn Jarecki: Fuad, what does Ramadan mean to you?

Fuad Al-Amoody: The month of Ramadan is our holy month. We have 12 months in the Islamic calendar, and one month of that is Ramadan. In that month, usually people reflect on themselves. There is spiritual growth; there is the devotion to God, where we worship God. We increase our worship; we grow our spiritual growth in Islam. We increase our gratitude. You know, we reflect on our growth ,on things that we do, have as Americans, as Muslims to be thankful to God.

An Islamic Society of Vermont sign on a snowy day.
Fuad Al-Amoody
An Islamic Society of Vermont sign on a snowy day.

But in this month, in the daytime, we refrain ourselves from eating. We increase our worshipping of God. And there are things that come out from this month. Our holy prophet tells us that anyone going through this month without gaining anything, then is a loser. Because there's a lot of advantage, things that we can get or attain in this month of Ramadan.

And, I think, if I had to summarize everything about Ramadan is the unity — the Muslim unity, you know, people getting together.

Jenn Jarecki: What is the nuance of celebrating Ramadan in Vermont?

Fuad Al-Amoody: I've lived different parts of the world. By far, by far Vermont is the best place to live. The struggle as Muslims we do have here is getting an imam. We had an imam prior, who was here for 10, 11 years. So a lot of Imams, people who are leaders for the masjid, who are leading the prayers, they don't like Vermont because of the cold. It gets really cold here. So they try to avoid here. So it was hard for us. It took us a year and a half, you know, to get an imam. But you know, right now we we did get an imam, we're in the process of hiring the imam right now. So it's a good thing. Hopefully, he's gonna be here to stay with us. But that was the struggle we did face. We had to up our salary. Burlington is not a cheap place to live.

Jenn Jarecki: Do you have a favorite tradition or moment during the holy month that you'd be open to sharing with listeners?

Fuad Al-Amoody: Unfortunately, in the United States, kids who are growing up — they don't see the same impact for Ramadan as other countries, like Muslim countries. In Muslim countries during Ramadan you will see, when you go outside "Wow," you know, it's different compared to the regular days in United States and other western countries .Muslims don't see that; they will go out, they will go to school it's the same thing. The school don't have anything saying you know, Ramadan Mubarak or celebrating today.

So what we have done to create a culture in my family is like every year we do something special. So for each day, when they completed this day, we used to have balloons. We used to put like toys inside balloons for my kids. So each day they can they get excited and we only pop them out after we open our fast so they were like eager to get that. I mean my kids are growing up now so the balloon doesn't work anymore. So now we got my daughter and my son a book where they write what are you thankful of, things that you can do for the world to change. You know, more intellectual, more things that they can think about rather than than materialistic things.

For our community, something special that we have done is we have the iftar. People who are listening to this, they are invited to come. So it's a Saturday and Sunday. We are all welcoming. There's foods from India, people from Bosnia. We have people from Somalia. We have all kinds of foods up there, and I love that — that cuisine of different ethnicities. I love that stuff.

Jenn Jarecki: More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed during Israel's assault in Gaza, and roughly 1,200 Israelis were killed on Oct. 7 In a Hamas-led attack. Weeks ago, Islamic Society of Vermont called for a ceasefire in Gaza, will you share with listeners how that came together?

Fuad Al-Amoody: When the war started up there, initially, many people didn't want to get involved. We didn't have a community leader, like the imam. It was all up on the board to give a statement to talk about it.

Things continued. You know, after Oct. 7, things continued. And people have families there. And they see the atrocities that are happening there. That, you know, we, as the board , we can't do justice to just be quiet. We can't. It's affecting us as individuals, is affecting us as humans. So we were struggling as board members. There were points that I wanted to resign; I'm not fit for this thing. I don't want to be involved in the news.

When the three kids — the innocent kids — got shot, there was an influx of news media here. Big media who wanted to talk to us. There were people from Canada that wanted to talk to us. Guess where they're gonna go? Islamic Society of Vermont. The weight on our shoulders was a lot. However, you know, what's going up there, it's much more than just the weight on our shoulders. And this is why for us, we had to come out and say, unequivocally, "Ceasefire, we need to stop this. We need to start humanizing people."

More from Vermont Edition: Vermont communities respond to shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent

And I do say that what happened that day was wrong, on Oct. 7. It's wrong, where innocent people are killed. And this is in the Quran. Our religion teaches us this, it says that when you kill an innocent person, you kill the whole humanity. People will write this in our books: "There was a time in 2024,2023 where this was happening and people were quiet. Americans were quiet. Everywhere in the Arab world is quiet. People are dying with hunger. Forget about bombs — now, it's hunger, famine. We as Americans, we as humans — we can stop this.

Jenn Jarecki: How has the community responded to the public call for peace? I mean, have you found that silence, or has there have been something more resounding?

Fuad Al-Amoody: They are. And that's why sometimes I say Vermont is a is a peaceful place. You know, you see all colors of help. Solidarity with us, especially when we had that incident where the three kids who were shot. And what amazed me at that time, and I really felt it — because I get all the emails, and I read how people feel. We did get a lot of solidarity. We did get a lot of support from the community, from people around Vermont. And you know, that's why there's a lot of marches happening. You see a lot of support from people around Vermont, to stop the killing. Ceasefire.

Jenn Jarecki: What is something you'll be reflecting on in this latter half of Ramadan?

Fuad Al-Amoody: One thing that I have and us as a community has done is making more prayers for our brothers and sisters in Palestine. It's unfortunate. Us as Muslims, humanity is one. We believe humanity is one. Especially Muslims, that's why we call each other "brother" this and "sister" that. We're very connected. It's like a body. When a limb gets hurt, or you feel pain in a limb, the whole body feels pain, and you can't go to sleep. That's what we are feeling right now. The Muslim community is feeling that pain, over what's going on there.

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