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Young Muslims Eager To Participate In Old Traditions

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By Sanaz Meshkinpour

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began this week; worshipers fast from sun-up to sun-down. Some young Muslim-Americans are eager to get a head-start on the tradition.

It’s past sundown, and the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia is packed with worshipers eating their first meal since dawn. Zineb Msakni and her three sisters sit down to a plate of okra, beef and rice.

Zineb, 18, says she loves Ramadan for both the feeling of community and building a personal bond with God.

"You can’t show off and fast at the same time because nobody really knows if you’re fasting except you and Allah," she says.

She says she finds it easy to fast, but for her eight year-old sister, Arwa, it’s different.

"Well it’s kinda hard," says Arwa.

Arwa used to fast a day here, a day there. This year, she wants to be like her sisters and fast for the entire month.

"It's like, it’s a new thing that you’re doing," she says.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, who heads the mosque, says young Muslims are obligated to start fasting when they hit puberty, but a lot of times children don’t want to be left out.

"There is a kind of an excitement to be able to do it, to withstand, to do what the big people are doing," Abdul-Malik says.

As for Arwa, she says she was tempted by a cookie earlier in the day, but she took a nap instead.

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