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National Public Radio (NPR)
Thursday, 11 October, 2007

Some observe the month of Ramadan

Some observe the month of Ramadan
By ZACHARY FRANZ , LAREDO MORNING TIMES
10/01/2007

When 7:35 p.m. rolls around, Kamel Shrek's eyes are bigger than his stomach.Shrek and his family are Muslims. During the month-long observance of Ramadan, they fast during the day. No food, no water from sun-up to sundown.

"It's very challenging, but we're used to it," Shrek said as his family ended the daily fast with a traditional meal Sunday night. "For the first few days, it's pretty hard, but then you get back into your routine. Maybe we're a little grouchy because of no coffee."

Ramadan commemorates the month in which Muslims believe the Koran was revealed. It is considered by those who practice the faith to be the most blessed month of the year. Fasting is probably the most well known and conspicuous aspect of its observance, but several other practices go into Ramadan, Shrek said.

During that month, Muslims make an extra effort to maintain pure thought and behave in a holy manner. They contribute to charity, engage in extra prayer and spend more time with their family.

Shrek's son, Kaleem Shrek, may have it the worst out of his family. The 14-year-old freshman plays football at Martin High School. For an entire month, he was to go through football practice in summer time heat without a sip of water.

"I like to go to practice, though," he said. "I just wait for my mom to come at sunset with water."

Kamel Shrek estimated there are about 35 practicing Muslims in Laredo, most of whom have moved here for their jobs. He said that global politics have had little effect on how people in the community treat them, and that curiosity is by far the most common response when he tells people his faith.

"That's one thing I like here," he Shrek said. "There's no prejudice here. They just ask a lot of questions."

Shrek, a math teacher at Martin High School, grew up in Libya, where almost everyone is Muslim. He said that the small population of Muslims in Laredo does make fasting difficult.

"(In Libya), everything slows down to the minimum during Ramadan. Everyone is feeling the same thing you're feeling," he said. "Here, you go to work and school, and nobody knows your fasting. They don't feel what you feel."

(Contact reporter Zachary Franz at 728-2582 or by email at zfranz@lmtonline.com)


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