At 9:06 p.m. on Thursday, dozens of Muslims completed the fourth prayer of the day at the American-Turkish Friendship Association. The prayer lasted for about 15 minutes after sunset, and attendees moved to the next room to join others for their second meal of the day.
Muslims across the globe are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan. Part of that celebration includes Iftar, or the nightly meal Muslims eat to break their fast.
Mirac Ozkir is a math teacher in Louisville. He’s also a board member of the association. One lesson he’s learned from Ramadan is how to cope with change.
“We all have routines in our life, routines are making our lives easier,” he says. “But all of a sudden, Ramadan starts and God says you know what you need to stop. This is your new routine for one month.”
He also sees the evening meal as a way to connect Muslims and non-Muslims in the city. Although the ritual of Iftar is consistent, Ozkir has noticed a difference this year.
“It’s like way bigger than previous years,” he says.
The Trump administration’s words and policy decisions are seen by many as unfriendly to Muslims. And Ozkir said he has witnessed many Louisvillians showing up to Iftar in support of his community.
Although Muslims make up only about 1 percent of the U.S. population according to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of Americans are at least “somewhat” concerned about Islamic extremism in the country.
A day after Trump’s January executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, the association held a dinner to combat racism and islamophobia. The dinner was planned months before Trump’s announcement. Organizers expected a crowd in the dozens, but hundreds attended the dinner to show their support.
The travel ban has since been revised to six majority-Muslim countries and includes other amendments, but federal courts have blocked it from going into effect.
For Ozkir, who was also present at the dinner earlier this year, the larger than usual crowd at Iftar may be an extension of that support.
“Compassionate Louisville is taking care of us really well,” he says. “We don’t see some bad part of America. Maybe they’re hiding from us.”