‘Not your typical Ramadan’: Muslim Americans focus on Gaza in holy month.

Standing outside the White House, Mohamad Habehh placed his right hand on his face and closed his eyes in a sign of spiritual devotion, reciting the Muslim call for prayer.

“Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar [God is greatest, God is greatest].” The words announced the end of a day of fasting as dozens of people gathered last week to protest against President Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza and an iftar meal the White House was hosting for government employees.

The demonstrators had their own iftar outside, despite the gloomy weather that evening, breaking their fast with dates, a shawarma sandwich and a bottle of water.

“End the siege on Gaza now. Free, free Palestine,” the crowd chanted as the rain intensified, drenching a large Palestinian flag fluttering on the edge of Pennsylvania Avenue. “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes.”

Their humble meal, preceded by communal prayers on the soaked pavement underscored the push by many Muslim Americans to prioritize Gaza activism during the holy month, which is normally a time of joy and reflection.

“This is the least we could do for the people of Gaza at a time where some of these people can’t break their fast; some of these people are starving,” Habehh, director of development at the American Muslims for Palestine nonprofit, told Al Jazeera.

In Washington, DC, and across the United States, the Palestinian cause took centre stage during Ramadan amid the war on Gaza.

Muslim American communities rebuffed politicians who have not called for a ceasefire, held fundraisers for Gaza and organized protests demanding an end to the war.

“The theme around the country for Muslim Americans has been Gaza,” Habehh said.

“Whether it’s in the group prayers that we are making during this month, whether it’s in the talks that we give, whether it’s in the events we host, Gaza has been constant. Many of our community members have made sure that their neighbours, their elected officials, all know where they stand.”

Jinan Deena, a Palestinian American chef and activist who helped organise two fundraising iftars for Gaza in the Washington, DC, area during Ramadan, said Muslims in the US are keeping Palestine at the “forefront” in their approach to the holy month this year.

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