As Connecticut Muslims celebrate return of in-person Ramadan events, some see progress toward inclusiveness

Hartford — For many Muslims in Connecticut, this month is the first Ramadan since 2019 that can be observed with nightly prayers in mosques and — at least for some — with large iftar dinners.

“I went to one last night. It was joyous, it was celebratory,” said Farhan Memon, chairman of the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. “We are getting near to the old normal — we’ve seen mosques open up to having evening dinners in a way that hasn’t happened in two years.”


As the holiest month of the year in their religion gets underway, the state’s Islamic residents are looking forward to the return to communal worship and Ramadan evening meals together — all of which were halted in early 2020 by the pandemic.

In talking with the Courant this week, several Connecticut Muslims offered their thoughts on progress toward improved public acceptance of Islam — and challenges that remain.


Hamden’s schools will make Eid al-Fitr an official holiday starting next year, for instance, a major victory in the eyes of Mariam Khan, who became the first Muslim on Hamden’s school board when voters elected her in November.

“What’s really exciting is that this happened because of student pressure and the support from teachers,” said Khan, a 19-year-old Yale University student who began community organizing in high school.

Khan was one of the primary voices calling for Hamden schools to close for Eid al-Fitr so that Muslim students could be home with family for the holiday, which marks the end of the Ramadan period of daylight fasting. New Haven schools already list Eid as a holiday; Waterbury holds classes, but gives students the option of taking the day off.

Khan is now working to get more Hamden Muslims to vote and to run for office.

“That’s what community engagement looks like,” said Khan, who also advocates for community-based interfaith dialogues.

“There are so many religious traditions that will be fasting at some point in the year — there’s so much shared across religions, and I think we forget that,” she said.

Khan also sees an urgent need to reduce Islamophobia, noting that the decision to make Eid a Hamden school holiday was made the same year that an arsonist burned the Diyanet mosque in New Haven.

“Islamophobia is rampant, and you can’t have the celebration of Ramadan and Eid without recognizing that it’s dangerous sometimes to be Muslim or wear a hijab,” she said.


At CAIR, Memon sees two sides of the Muslim experience in Connecticut. His organization continues to get frequent calls from parents whose children are bullied at school because of their religion or for wearing a hijab, but he also sees growing acceptance on other fronts.

“We have made some progress because of the increase in the number of Muslims in our schools,” he said. “There’s more awareness, and awareness leads to policy shifts. The media didn’t cover the start of Ramadan 20 years ago,” he said.

Memon says making Eid a holiday for students and workers would help, partly because it would build Muslim Americans’ sense of belonging.

Along with schools, businesses should do more to accommodate Muslim workers who are required to work on Eid, according to Memon.

Allowing workers on overnight shifts to temporarily swap with day or evening shift coworkers would help during Ramadan, he said.

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“Employers who have Muslim employees working should demonstrate they value them and make reasonable accommodations so they can attend Friday prayers,” he said.


State Sen. Saud Anwar, a medical doctor, said there’s been progress in the past 20 years, but plenty of space for improvement.

“We’re blessed because we’re becoming more and more inclusive as a state,” Anwar said. “We recognize the shared future is the only way forward.

“The real progress will be when we see people of the Muslim community being a part of all professions, from law enforcement to the military to working at grocery stores, being engineers or lawyers or business people,” he said.

Anwar would like to see more municipal police departments and volunteer fire departments actively recruiting Muslim candidates.”

“I would love to see more Muslims in law enforcement, the military, the fire department. There have been past issues that created some mistrust (by the Muslim community),” Anwar said.

“But some of that mistrust is unfounded. If more (Muslim) people are part of law enforcement, it would help break down down barriers,” he said.