Ramadan Contest Captures Wonder of Islam

EsinIslam Ramadan Explorer

The Fresno Bee

Valley Muslims are preparing for Ramadan, including getting their cameras ready.

For the second year in a row, the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno will hold a Ramadan photo competition as a creative way to show the Islamic faith.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year, a 29-day period of fasting daily for Muslims from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan begins each year the day after the first sighting of the crescent moon by the naked eye. Moonsighting.com is projecting the first sighting will be Tuesday, which means Ramadan would start Wednesday.

The Islamic center, the Valley's largest Muslim congregation, hosts events throughout Ramadan that bring Muslims together as well as unites them with non-Muslims in the community. The events emphasize the importance of depending upon God and giving to others.

All Ramadan activities end with the festival celebration of Eid al-Fitr. This year, Eid al-Fitr is scheduled for Aug. 8.

"This is our busiest time of the year," says Seyed Ali Ghazvini, the Islamic center's imam. "Members that you don't see regularly during the year, you see them at Eid ."

The center's Ramadan photo competition 2013 has several themes for photographers to try to capture: the Islamic faith, respect for other faiths, Muslim culture and unity/diversity. Photographers are reminded to be respectful of people's privacy, especially during prayer, and they must get permission before taking photos.

There are rewards: gift certificates in the amounts of $100, $60, $35 and $25.

Negin Tahvildary, a research assistant at the Islamic center and a teacher of Islamic Studies at Fresno State, had the idea for the photo competition. She wanted people to take photos at the center's Ramadan events that captured culture and traditions as well as the meaning of Islam.

At the end of each week of Ramadan last year, a panel of three judges selected a winning photo. It was then posted on the center's website and Facebook page as well as featured in the center's e-newsletter.

Ghazvini says the competition was a big hit last year, with dozens of people submitting photos.

"A photo is an article by itself," he says. "It doesn't need words. It is a language that is understood globally. You don't need to know Arab, Spanish or any other language. It is a language that every person understands and appreciate."

An example was one of last year's winners. Keyvan Abedi snapped a photo of Ghazvini and Bishop Armando X. Ochoa of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno shaking hands.

Ochoa was just months on the job. His predecessor, Bishop John Steinbock, was a regular at Ramadan events. Ochoa was continuing the tradition.

Islam teaches Muslims to have respect for other religious beliefs.

After the four weekly winners were declared last year, the judges picked an overall winner. Among their considerations was the number of "likes" the photos received on Facebook .

Nabil Sakib, a student majoring in engineering at Fresno State, was the overall winner with a photo of Ayate Mankouri, 8, dropping a coin into the center's donation box .

Islam teaches about the importance of giving to others during Ramadan .

"The photo is very beautiful," Ghazvini says. "It reflects the engagement of a young member. She is showing an act of devotion — sharing — and she is proud of it ."

Another winner was Ali Dadawalla, 11, who is going into the sixth grade at Mountain View Elementary School in Clovis. He took a photo of his godmother, Fatema Salemwalla, tenderly kissing the hand of Ali's brother, Abbas, 9, who is entering the fifth grade at Mountain View .

Muslim family members are taught to greet each other with kisses on the hand. The youngest goes first .

"It's part of our culture," Ali says. "It's emotional ."

Ali says he didn't snap the photo to win a contest. He says, "I just wanted to enjoy the moment ."

EsinIslam Ramadan Team

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