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City Hall hosts Ramadan Iftar dinner

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It was 8:58 p.m. Tuesday when the Arabic prayer rang out at sunset and the Iftar dinner celebrating the end of another day of Ramadan commenced in the City Hall lobby.

This has become something of an annual event, an Iftar dinner bringing together members of the local Turkish community and an array of political leaders and leaders of other religious groups.

For the month of Ramadan, devout Muslims are supposed to fast from food or water from sunrise to sunset each day and then the Iftar dinner is held, traditionally begun with eating a date.

"Not eating is what comes to mind first when we say we're fasting," said Niagara University Associate History Professor Mustafa Gokcek.

"But, not drinking becomes hard to understand, especially in the United States where we emphasize so much hydration. Biologically, what we experience as you fast, the first couple of days the body adjusts and after that first adjustment period, it really becomes easy," Gokcek explained.

Besides gathering in groups for the nightly dinners, Muslims are supposed to give charity to the poor during Ramadan. That can include inviting them to these dinners.

Event outreach volunteer Selcuk Acar says observance changes with the time of year.

"It circulates around the year as you move on. It's an interesting experience. When I was a child, I did not know what it was like to fast in the long days in the summer," Acar said.

Speakers read from the Qur'an and discussed charity. For the City Hall dinner, speakers from other religions talked about the connections of fasting and charity among faith groups.