Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ramadan Round-up 2008, part II

Food for thought

So what will your rambling Ramadan Reporter serve for dinner this week? For what it’s worth, you were this close to receiving a detailed account of the opening of the Polder Mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan.

But I decided against it. For one thing, the mosque in Amsterdam Slotervaart it is not half as unique as Dutch media make it out to be. Its major selling point is that men and women are allowed to pray together in the same room and that and the sermons are in Dutch instead of Arabic.

True, for the majority of Sunni Muslims it is perhaps a first, but for the roughly 10.000 followers of the Dutch chapter of Lahore Ahmadiyya Muslims– a reformist offspring of Sunni Islam that came into being around at the end of the 19th century, this really is very old hat indeed!

So where did your reporter go to then? Think a Moroccan host family el Filali. Think a very special dinner guest. Think Mrs Ella Vogelaar -our very minister of Integration. The meet, greet & eat, more aptly coined ‘hospitality dinner’, was set up by the organisers of the Ramadan Festival who launched this idea some three years ago. And this year more than a hundred Muslim families – and still growing - have already expressed their willingness to host a Ramadan evening for non-Muslims.

Sitting on a red leather sofa near a crackling fire Mrs Vogelaar was literally warming up for the iftar meal, while babbling away about the Dutch word ‘gezellig’ and the fact that there seems to be no proper English word that captures the essence of ‘gezellig.
At around 8.20 pm it was time to break the fast, and as custom requires, Mrs Vogelaar sank her teeth in dried dates and drank some cold milk, thus acting in accordance with Prophet Muhammad’s own iftar rituals.

As the evening got underway, Mrs Vogelaar explained she had never fasted before: ‘I come from a Protestant background, and we don’t have this tradition of fasting like for instance Catholics or Muslims have’.

Both Vogelaar and the Filalis believe in the concept of hospitality dinners as a way of getting to know each other on a much more informal basis. That said, I can’t help but wonder whether the elegantly furbished living room with an eastern touch of class, the wafts of mouthwatering Moroccan delicacies, and a CD of the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum playing in the background would also work their magic on, say, Geert Wilders?

Vogelaar frowns and pauses a bit before answering with a twinkle in her eyes: ‘I am not sure whether it would be such a pleasure for the hosts to have him over as a guest, but why not, it would be a great idea indeed.’

Want to see it yourself? Then do watch NMO, Nederland 2, every Sunday at 14.30