How Christians are using their lawns to support their Muslim neighbors.

Ramadan is helping to shift how communities view Islam.

Summer means lazy days and late bedtimes in many American households. But for Americans Muslims this year, it also means something more: Ramadan.

Many U.S. families celebrate Ramadan. Image via iStock.


Ramadan is the month that Muslims believe God began the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad. This year, Ramadan started on June 6 and will probably end on July 7.

During Ramadan, the world’s Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, pray more, give charity, and otherwise spend prayerful and peaceful lives. And while Ramadan is always interesting, it’s especially fascinating this year, as there’s also been a surge of bigotry toward Muslim Americans. The current negative political rhetoric about Islam has made this a difficult time for American Muslims across the nation to celebrate and focus.

But one Christian group in Minnesota is trying to change that tough dynamic by encouraging tolerance and understanding of their Muslim neighbors ... on their front lawns.

The Minnesota Council of Churches, a group of more than 25 churches from a variety of denominations, made news earlier this month for their Blessed Ramadan campaign, in which they asked community members to put signs like this one in their yards wishing Muslims a blessed holy month:

Image courtesy of the writer, used with permission.

After it was launched, the Blessed Ramadan program became a national hit.

It was featured on Voice of America Indonesia for “giving hope for better interfaith relationships to a majority-Muslim country where Christians sometimes experience persecution,” according to Rev. Jerad Morey, the project organizer and program and communications director of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

And it was called a triumph of the human spirit by Church Marketing Sucks.

Now, hundreds of Christians across Minnesota and the nation are supporting their Muslim neighbors during Ramadan.

This support came at just the right time, when it was greatly needed. Morey says they have provided signs to 53 interfaith, Catholic, Jewish, ELCA, UCC, PCUSA, UMC, Episcopalian, Universalist, and Community of Christ congregations.

Muslims are taking note and expressing their gratitude.

The groups have cultivated a great interfaith experience for the community. Image via iStock.

A Muslim myself, I’m involved heavily in interfaith dialogue and outreach in my own Greater Houston community. I’m also raising two first-generation American children, and every day I see how much of difference just one hand extended in friendship can mean to my family.

Blessed Ramadan gives me hope. It gives me hope that there are kind, generous people in the world, and that they hail from all faith backgrounds. It is such a small thing, but it sends a powerful message.

Other Muslims have expressed similar thoughts. Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota told the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “If I see a sign, it tells me that the person believes this country belongs to everyone, that no one should be excluded. There is a vast reservoir of goodwill among people. The Blessed Ramadan signs allow that to be expressed.”

And Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “It’s a powerful message to deter intolerance.”

Image courtesy of the writer.

Besides being a spiritually uplifting month, Ramadan is also considered a time of community.

Traditionally, many mosques open their doors to Muslims and non-Muslims alike to break the fast together (this is called iftar) and offer additional nighttime prayers.

Increasingly, these iftar events are turning into interfaith events as well. The Minnesota Council of Churches hosts the Taking Heart interfaith iftar to bring faith groups closer together. And this year, their joint program with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota will welcome an estimated 1,000 non-Muslims into these events through 19 mosques/Islamic centers.

Interfaith iftars are nothing new – even the White House holds an official one each year.

But they are drawing more attention in recent years amid the backdrop of negative political rhetoric and terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists.

In such an environment, when American Muslims often feel worried about their future and disheartened about constant stereotyping, sharing Ramadan with a neighbor can be an easy and effective way to change perspectives and increase tolerance in the community.

Celebrating Ramadan is a great way to engage with one another, even if the time spent looks as corny as this stock photo. Image via iStock.

Whether you prefer putting up signs or attending an event, there is so much that can be done to promote a more inclusive and tolerant religious community!

Here are some tips for how you can support your Muslim friends on this and every Ramadan:

  • Learn about Ramadan by asking a neighbor or reading articles like this one or this one. Learning about Ramadan can help debunk stereotypes about the traditions behind this month.
  • Visit a mosque for an interfaith iftar for some good conversation and great food. At my mosque and hundreds of others around the world, Muslims talk and eat with their neighbors every day.
  • Ask a Muslim neighbor or coworker if he or she needs help while fasting. Unlike Lent, Ramadan can be physically exhausting, and your support will be very much appreciated.
  • Wish your community a Blessed Ramadan, in the same vein that you wish them Merry Christmas or Cinco de Mayo! I make it a point to give good wishes to others on their holidays, and it really pleases me when they do the same for me.
  • Try fasting, even if it’s just for a day, to experience some of the spiritual benefits Muslims get from Ramadan. Some of my friends have loved this exercise and continue with me each year.
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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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