Ramadan observances begin for Muslims; new food program introduced in NYC

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Muslims in many parts of the world marked the start of Ramadan on Tuesday, but a spike in coronavirus cases in several countries has once again put curbs on the holy month's signature feasts and lengthy prayers in mosques.

Still, there were glimmers that Ramadan 2021 could feel less restricted than last year, when Islam's holiest period coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Long Island Tuesday night, Eyewitness News was there as the faithful prayed inside the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury following their first day of fasting.

"Last year because of the pandemic the center had been closed," said Mufti Mohammad Farhan. "People had to pray in their own homes, their own houses. People did not have the opportunity to be here. And now, sometimes you lose something to gain the blessings of it again."

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On Long Island, a prayer service was held inside the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury.



The Tarawih prayers take place each night during the holy month in addition to Islam's traditional five daily prayers.

Ramadan is marked by these additional prayers, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts with family and friends, though crowded shoulder-to-shoulder gatherings in mosques and large gatherings for meals remain prohibited due to the continued spread of coronavirus globally.

Mosques have since reopened and limits on movement have eased as vaccine rollouts continue in Muslim-majority nations. Clerics in such places as Indonesia have issued assurances the vaccine does not break one's daytime fast.

On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wished those who observe the holy period a "blessed and peaceful Ramadan."

"Our State's diverse society, culture and faith are central to who we are as New Yorkers, and we stand with those who practice the Muslim faith throughout the state," Cuomo said.

Local leaders used the start of Ramadan to introduce a new food initiative in Harlem.

ALSO READ | Ramadan 2021: What you need to know about the Islamic holy month

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, along with Islamic Relief USA, announced the creation of Iftar On The Go. It's a food distribution program across all five boroughs that will provide free halal meals for people in need.

Stringer says 1.6 million New Yorkers go to bed hungry, and food insecurity especially impacts Muslims.

"Ramadan is a time to reflect and look out for one another and that's exactly what Iftar On The Go is all about, this is service in action," Stringer said.


Stringer also called for the city to create a $25 million food program to target the issue and use the month of Ramadan to work to get Muslims in New York vaccinated.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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