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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Nov 28 - Dec 4, 2001


Lessons on 
tolerance discussed

Muslims observe Ramadan and Thanksgiving in Triumph

Express Staff Writer

Thanksgiving Day had an unusual irony for Asia Kambal and Musa Murawih this year in the small town of Triumph, southeast of Ketchum.

Linda Murawih, Pat Murphy, Asia Kambal, Daphne Coble and Musa Murawih (left to right), carve up the Thanksgiving turkey after a day of fasting for the Muslim observance of Ramadan. Express photo by Peter Boltz

This year, the celebration of thanksgiving and feasting coincided with the Muslim month of Ramadan, which the faithful observe with fasting and reflection from daylight to nightfall for 30 days.

Asia (pronounced ah-SEE-yah), Musa and his wife Linda spent the Thanksgiving holidays at the Triumph home of Pat Murphy and his wife Daphne Coble.

Despite the conflict of Thanksgiving and Ramadan, they still celebrated by eating the traditional turkey and all the fixings ĺ they just waited for nightfall.

Murawih said Ramadan is "a month for God. It also teaches us patience and how it feels for people who are hungry and thirsty. From sunrise to sundown, we have nothing to eat or drink."

The reason Thanksgiving fell within the month of Ramadan is that the Islamic calendar is lunar. The months are set according to new and full moons, and the year is 354 to 355 days. Most of the Western world uses the Gregorian calendar of 365 days.

Murphy and Coble met their three guests when they were teaching at the Khartoum American International School in the Sudanese capital. The two returned to the United States this fall after working four years at the school.

The Murawihs have been living in Denver, where Musa was just awarded a masterís degree in international relations.

Kambal has been living in Boulder, Colo., working on a bachelorís degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado.

After the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, Kambal and Murawih experienced different reactions at their schools.

Kambal said she didnít experience any hostility and that people were understanding. But she said that might have been because she does not "look like an Arab."

But, she said, "Someone sent a letter to the Islamic Association, a threat telling Muslims to get out of the United States."

Murawih said that at the University of Denver, people held a vigil attended by "different people of different faiths. We all talked and had time to come together. There was no prejudice. People offered their support to us."

Murphy contrasted the intolerance of some Americans to Muslims to the hospitality and acceptance he experienced from Muslims in Sudan.

He said when he first moved to Khartoum, he was worried because the only thing he knew of Muslims is what he had seen on TV.

"I was under the impression that Muslims generally did not like Americans," he said.

"The first three days I was in Khartoum, I didnít leave the apartment because of safety."

Murphy, who teaches physical education and health, said after three days he needed some exercise. He thought about running, but then he worried about getting lost in the city.

"If I got lost, what would people do?" he wondered.

But he suited up anyway, and as soon as people saw him, they greeted him with "Welcome in Sudan."

And everywhere he ran, people greeted him again and again, saying, "You must have water. It is too hot to run. Stop and rest awhile."

Coble called the Sudanese "a relaxed welcoming people."

As an American and a woman, Linda Murawih said she never felt unsafe, even if she was walking alone, late at night.

Coble said she felt the same way and remarked that dresses and slacks were fine, and so were short-sleeved shirts.

She and Linda commented on how they once saw some women tourists at a "suq" or marketplace dressed in shorts and sleeveless blouses.

No one bothered them, no one said anything, they said.

"It was just bad taste," Coble said.

The five of them discussed the matter of tolerance and intolerance of foreign cultures for a couple of minutes.

Murawih said that there is "an internal logic" to every culture, and if you could just try to see things from anotherís perspective, your perspective would be "less judgmental and you would be better able to understand."

Murphy said that Islam, like any religion, has its differing degrees of fundamentalism to liberalism, and that Americans should try to understand Islam in this way and not lump all Muslims together.

American prejudice against Muslims isnít helped any by a list the U.S. State Department keeps of state sponsors of international terrorism.

Sudan, bordered on the north by Egypt and the west by Ethiopia, keeps company with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba and North Korea.

In this time of Thanksgiving and good will toward all men, Murphyís experience with televised Sudanese and real-life Sudanese serves as a holiday example.

More importantly, so do the words of the Koran 5:13.

"O you who believe, be steadfast to God as witnesses for justice, and let not your abhorrence of a people induce you to act inequitably; rather, be equitable, for this is nearer to God-fearing."


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.