At start of Ramadan, a time of reflection in NYC

Sunday marks the start of Ramadan. New York Muslims are preparing to observe the religious holiday as the Israel-Hamas war enters its fifth month.

Brooklyn resident Zafar Iqbal said as the conflict rages on, this Ramadan he’s focused on peace.

“At the end of the day it’s about being peaceful with everybody and just reflection,” he said.

Ramadan is a time when Muslims renew their faith and celebrate Islam’s holy book, the Quran.

More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military actions in predominantly Sunni Muslim Gaza since the start of the war, according to the Gaza health ministry. The death toll and destruction in Gaza has drawn rebuke from Muslims worldwide.

The Israeli offensive was precipitated by Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Roughly 1,200 people were killed in Israel and about 240 were taken hostage, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

Iqbal is a member of the mosque Makki Masjid on Coney Island Avenue in an area sometimes referred to as Little Pakistan. A Happy Ramadan sign was strung in lights over the avenue this weekend. It will be illuminated on Monday, the first day of fasting.

Iqbal said rising costs and gentrification have been hard on the local community in the last few years. He said the mosque holds three or four food drives a week and will be offering a free Iftar meal each night.

“The neighborhood is changing,” he said. “We try to help out as much as we can with the community. When it comes to [breaking] the fast, we have maybe 100 people downstairs that actually sit down and we actually feed them,” he said. “So everyone chips in.”

On Saturday night, local shops in Little Pakistan were busy as families stocked up ahead of the holiday, purchasing boxes of dates, bags of flour and Halal meats.

Hossein Faruq runs NYC Best Food Inc., a restaurant on Foster Avenue. He said he plans to offer his freshest options to customers as they break their fasts.

“We are happy to come to Ramadan, always,” he said.

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