September 12, 2007
There are seven million Muslims in the United States. While it's the fastest growing religion in America it's also one of the most misunderstood.
"Things that people don't understand is that Muslims belong to the same line of faith. There is one God," said Dr. Aliaa Khidr, a professor at the University of Virginia.
Today, the local Muslim community with join other Muslims across the nation and the world to begin a month long period of fasting to observe their holiest holiday.
Ramadan begins at sundown tonight. Traditionally, it's a time when Muslims will cut down on food and sacrifice sleep to focus on prayer.
"There is a little bit of hardship to it, but it's not as hard as you would imagine," said Evita Byrd, a graduate student at the University of Virginia.
Byrd is one of millions of Muslim Americans who try to balance religious traditions of the Islamic faith with a western way of life. The tight knit Muslim community in Charlottesville serves as her source of strength.
"There are definitely some influences that might take you away from the principles you stand for. It's just having my support system, the Muslim community here, the adults and the other students. They are sort of a family," said Byrd.
The Muslim Student's Association is hosting a "Fast-a-Thon" on October 2nd at the student activities building on grounds. They invite those who are curious about Ramadan to learn more by taking part in the fasting tradition.
The holy month of Ramadan coincides with Rosh Hoshana, the 10-day Jewish holiday that marks the Jewish New Year.
This is the third year in a row Jews and Muslims will celebrate their most sacred seasons on the same day.