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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.
All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

popular

Woman left at the altar by her fiance decided to 'turn the day around’ and have a wedding anyway

'I didn’t want to remember the day as complete sadness.'

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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Education

How a 3,800-year-old stone tablet helped create modern legal systems

'Innocent until proven guilty' isn't that new of a concept.

Kind of looks like the Matrix code...

The modern justice system is certainly not without its flaws, however most can agree that the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is one that (when not abused) stands as the foundation of what fair due process looks like. This principle, it turns out, isn’t so modern at all. It can actually be traced all the way back to nearly 3,800 years ago.

historyLady Justice, the image of impartial fairness. Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

English barrister Sir William Garrow is known for coining the "innocent until proven guilty" phrase between the 18th and 19th century, after insisting that evidence be provided by accusers and thoroughly tested in court. But this notion, as radical as it seemed at the time, can, in fact, be credited to an ancient Babylonian king who ruled Mesopotamia.

During his reign from 1792 to 1750 B.C., Hammurabi left behind a legacy of accomplishments as a ruler and a diplomat. His most influential contribution was a series of 282 laws and regulations that were painstakingly compiled after he sent legal experts throughout his kingdom to gather existing laws, then adapted or eliminated them in order to create a universal system.

Those laws were inscribed on a large, seven-foot stone monument, and they were known as the Code of Hammurabi.

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Pop Culture

TikTok star's surprising method for finding good Chinese food is blowing people's minds

Yelp can be a helpful tool for scoping out food joints, but maybe not in the way you think.

Photo by Debbie Tea on Unsplash

Different cultures view service differently.

Content creator Freddy Wong has a brilliantly easy way to find authentic Chinese food.

As he reveals in a mega viral video that’s racked up 9.4 million views on TikTok and 7.7 million views on Twitter, the trick (assuming you live in a major metropolitan area) is to “go on Yelp and look for restaurants with 3.5 stars, and exactly 3.5 stars." Not 3. Not 4. 3.5.

He then backs up his argument with some pretty undeniable photo evidence.

First, he pulls up an image of a Yelp page from P.F. Chang’s. With only 2.5 stars, one can tell the food is “obviously bad.” Alternatively, Din Tai Fung—a globally recognized Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant—has four stars.

Sounds good right? Wrong. In this case, “too many stars” means that “too many white people like it,” indicating that the restaurant is being judged on service rather than food quality. According to Wong, if “the service is too good, the food is not as good as it could be.”

He then pulls up the Yelp page for a couple of local Chinese restaurants, both of which have 3.5 stars. The waiters at these establishments might “not pay attention to you,” he admits, adding that they might even be “rude.” But, Wong attests, “it’s going to taste better.”

@rocketjump

Why I only go to Chinese restaurants with 3.5 star ratings

♬ original sound - RocketJump

"The dumplings here are better [than Din Tai Fung's]. I've been here," he says of the 3.5 star Shanghai Dumpling House. Considering his Twitter profile boasts a “James Beard Award winning KBBQ Gourmand'' title, it seems like he knows what he’s talking about.

So, why is this 3.5 rule the “sweet spot”? As Wong explains, it all comes down to different “cultural expectations.”

“In Asia, they’re not as proactive. They’re not going to come up to you, they’re not going to just proactively give you refills, you need to flag down the waiter,” he says, noting the different interpretations of service.

"People on Yelp are insufferable,” he continues, arguing that “they're dinging all these restaurants because the service is bad,” but the food is so good that it balances out the bad service. Hence, a 3.5-star rating. His reasoning is arguably sound—people do often give absurdly scathing reviews that in no way accurately reflect a restaurant’s food quality.

“A good Yelp review doesn’t mean it’s a good restaurant — it simply means the restaurant is good at doing things that won’t hurt their online rating,” Wong said in an interview with Today, adding that “highly rated Yelp restaurants are often those with counter service and limited menus, minimizing potential negative interaction with staff.”

He also added the caveat, “I don’t have anything against those places, but I think people who only eat at the ‘highest rated’ restaurants on online review sites are only eating at the most boring restaurants.”

A ton of people in the comments seem to back Wong’s theory.

best chinese food

100% accurate, some say

TikTok

Plus, the theory seems to not be limited to just Chinese restaurants, further implying that maybe there’s more of a cultural misunderstanding, rather than any real lack of quality.

thai food near me

No drink refills but the food is fire.

TikTok

yelp reviews, yelp

2.8 is the new 5

TikTok

One of the gifts that our modern world provides is the opportunity to truly experience and appreciate other cultures. Since food is easily one of the most accessible (and enjoyable) ways to do that, perhaps we should prioritize seeking authenticity, rather than rely on a flawed and superficial rating system.

As Wong told Today, “I hope it encourages people to go out and eat more food from not only Chinese restaurants, but restaurants representing the whole world of cultural cuisines.”