Muslims to sponsor Sunday #RamadaninLA outreach effort in Hollywood

FILE: A sign outside the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles reads
FILE: A sign outside the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles reads "Have a generous Ramadan." The Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer starts Monday.
Bear Guerra/KPCC

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Muslim and interfaith groups, hoping to dispel negative stereotypes, have teamed up with the cultural nonprofit LA Commons for an outreach project during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

They've even given it a hashtag: #RamadaninLA.

The month of reflection, prayer and fasting begins on Monday. During Ramadan, observant Muslims fast during the day, then break their fast each night with a traditional meal called an iftar. The month ends with the holiday of Eid, which is marked with feasting and festivals.

In this case, #RamadaninLA organizers are putting together a public pre-Ramadan celebration in Barnsdall Park in Hollywood, set for Sunday evening, 5:30 to 8. Non-Muslims are welcome.

"It is in essence a kickoff with a community soiree evening," said Marium Mohiuddin, a Muslim community activist. "People have been asking me how to describe it, and it's 'a very laid-back party.'"

The event is the brainchild of Karen Mack, who directs LA Commons. The Leimert Park nonprofit puts together cultural education programs.

Mack reached out to local Muslim leaders after seeing media reports following the Paris terror attacks in November and the San Bernardino mass shooting in December and then listening to anti-Muslim rhetoric in the presidential campaign.

"I wanted to create an opportunity to ... combat Islamophobia, to bring Los Angeles together, to have an experience of this amazingly rich culture," she said.

Several mosques and interfaith groups are on board for the pre-Ramadan event. They have lined up traditional music, food and poetry. Attendees may also sign up to join traditional iftar dinners around town throughout the month, held by local mosques and interfaith organizations.

Mohiuddin says organizers hope to draw together both non-Muslims and Muslims, especially younger Muslims who might need encouragement in a climate that has felt hostile lately.

She said she'd like to see people attend who are "the young families, the millennials, the professionals, to be reminded of what we are about to start on Sunday."

Organizers also hope they'll change some hearts and minds.

"I think the ideal person would be someone who probably has really horrible ideas and thoughts about Islam to come and learn, 'Wow, this is completely wrong, and I was wrong,'" Mohiuddin said.

"These are Muslim Americans that are a part of this fabric, a part of this community, of this society...," she said.

The Ramadan event follows other local efforts to reach out to non-Muslims. A "Meet a Muslim" event was held earlier this year in Irvine.

More details about #RamadaninLA can be found on the LA Commons website.