Logan family invites Queensland Police chief to Ramadan feast in bid to break down cultural barriers
Remember: there’s a big difference between kneeling down and bending over.– Frank Zappa
The daily family ritual of sitting down to dinner together has taken on a new significance for about half a million Australian Muslims observing the holy month of Ramadan.
They must abstain from all food and drink during daylight hours to purify the soul, refocus on God, and practice self-sacrifice.
The fast is broken every evening at sunset with special meals enjoyed together with family and friends.
“It is such a special thing for us, the Ramadan dinner,” said mother-of-five, Canan Coskun, from Logan, south of Brisbane.
“If you can imagine you haven’t eaten all day so you’re really looking forward to that soup and that bread, and everything just seems so delicious.”
Her family hosts the special dinners, or Iftars, where they invite non-Muslim guests to share in the evening meal at their home.
This year, the Coskuns counted Queensland’s Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Brent Carter among their guests.
“What better thing to do with someone than to sit down and have food with them?” said Mrs Coskun.
“Especially when we’re in my home and I’m serving them food.
“To share that special moment with people from other faith backgrounds, it means a lot to us.”
Mrs Coskun said she believed having a meal together could also help to break down barriers.
“I’ve had many people over at my house who have never seen a Muslim person before, or maybe they’ve never seen a woman in a hijab,” she said.
“They’re sitting at my dinner table and just kind of looking at me serving them soup and serving them sweets, and I can see them thinking, ‘wow, they’re pretty much like us and they’re quite normal’.”
The notion of going without food or water for thirty days also sparks plenty of questions from non-Muslim guests.
“They just think we’re refraining from food and water, but it’s more than that,” said 18-year-old Seyma Coskun.
“It’s about developing more spiritually, it’s about doing more good, it’s about making better habits.”
Her eight year-old brother, Huzeyfe, is not obliged to fast until he reaches puberty, but he is trying to join his parents and older sisters.
He says his friends are very curious.
“They ask, ‘is it easy and do you get very hungry?’ and I say that I don’t eat much, so it’s easy for me,” he said.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and this year runs from June 18 until July 17.
Like his wife, Murat Coskun hoped breaking bread with other community members might help foster tolerance and appreciation of cultural diversity.
“I think that whilst it’s not an obligation for people to know about it, it would not take anything away from them, from knowing about Ramadan, ” he said.
“It would just add to their depth and I think and it would help them better understand people that they bump into at work, or maybe their neighbours or their friends.
“We like to learn about Christmas and how our human brethren live and what they believe in.”
He said the family looked forward to Ramadan.
“It’s like the spiritual pinnacle of our year,” said Mr Coskun.
“It’s where we’re closest to God and consequently closest to people as well.”
Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Carter described it as an educational experience.
“You know I’ve learned so much, meeting this family for the first time, sitting down and sharing a meal with them,” he said.
“They’re just like any other Australian family: hard working, very committed and family-orientated.”
The dinners are coordinated through the Queensland Intercultural Society to foster a better understanding of the Islamic faith.