Starting today, Muslims throughout North America will face nearly 16-hour days of fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a time of self-purification, self-restraint and inner reflection for Muslims, who abstain from food and drink and other sensual pleasures during daylight hours.
During the month, believers focus on piety, charity and self-improvement.
This Ramadan, however, many suburban Muslims are reflecting on how far they have come as a community in the 10 years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks sullied the image of the religion practiced by nearly 1.3 billion people worldwide.
On that ill-fated Tuesday, 19 al-Qaida terrorists hijacked and flew two commercial jet airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another into the Pentagon, and crashed a fourth headed toward Washington, D.C., in a field in rural Pennsylvania.
The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people — mostly civilians — from more than 70 countries, shocked the world, and shook the Muslim community to its core.
Some community leaders view Sept. 11 as a wake-up call that prompted Muslims to come out of their shell. It spurred more interfaith dialogue and outreach efforts, often held during Ramadan, as a means of breaking down barriers and improving relationships with non-Muslims.