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St. Thomas, Ont. Muslims will break fast for the first time in their new mosque | CBC News

With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, St. Thomas Muslims will be able to celebrate Ramadan differently this year. For the first time, they can break their fasts together, in person, in their new mosque.  

There’s a community Iftar being held on Saturday at the St. Thomas Islamic Centre, which is a new mosque in the city that opened in early 2021. The pandemic prevented the community from hosting a large event last year and instead they had an Iftar drive-thru.

Iftar is the nightly meal that ends the day of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. It’s usually a joyous, collective experience. 

Zeeshan Syed is a media rep for the mosque and will be the MC for the Iftar. (Submitted by Zeeshan Syed)

“The essence of community was missing because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Zeeshan Syed, a media representative for the mosque and the emcee for Saturday’s Iftar. “We were just doing Iftar with just our families.”

“This is the opportunity to be, again, in the community setting where we can talk to each other, where we can ask about each other, see how everybody else is doing, and then bring everybody together at one table.”

There are approximately 33,000 to 35,000 Muslims living in London, many of whom will be observing Ramadan. It’s an Islamic holy month where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for about 30 days, and this year it started at the beginning of this month.   

“The biggest blessing of Ramadan: you pray in congregation more, you try to be in the (mosque) more, you try to do charity more, so people and community is the big aspect of Ramadan,” said Syed. 

“And that aspect was missing because of the pandemic because not a lot of social interactions were happening.” 

The mosque will provide masks and sanitizer to attendees, Syed said. 

Raising funds for orphans abroad

Saimah Sarwar is with Islamic Relief, working in the region. (Submitted by Saimah Sarwar)

The Iftar is not just a community meal – the mosque has teamed up with Islamic Relief to raise funds for orphans abroad. 

The meal itself is free but they’ll be asking people to donate to help sponsor orphans around the world. Islamic Relief currently supports approximately 20,000 orphans across 40 countries. 

Saimah Sarwar, who helps raise funds for Islamic Relief in the region, said that the orphans are provided with everything from water to education, shelter and healthcare. 

“It’s a holistic approach,” said Sarwar. “We make sure the kids are getting education so that when they grow up and they’re out of the program, they’re able to sustain themselves. It’s not a Band-Aid approach.”

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