Dawn till dusk Ramadan adherents forsake food, drink, sex, and destructive behavior to “cleanse bodies and souls, empathize with less fortunate, embrace self-purity and self-restraint, cut themselves off from worldly conflicts, and focus on purpose of life by constantly being aware of God.” Month of rigor ends with consumption of dates followed by feast. Afterward keynote speaker imam named Rasheed, Egyptian-born resident of California, steps behind microphone and in relaxed way says Islam enjoys advantage having most recent (and relevant) prophet since Mohammed died six centuries after Christ. But this isn’t competition, he implies, for there’s only one God, and Muslims are His peaceful servants. They don’t want war. They’re not terrorists. Who, really, are terrorists, imam asks? Are they not Israelis occupying Palestine and Americans bloodying Iraq? Nine-Eleven-style Muslim bombers are but aggrieved and infinitesimal part of whole.
Imam does not linger on politics. He speaks of inner harmony in lives of Muslims, and is calm and prepared when American Muslim woman, face bound in hijab, asks how can justify contradiction of Islam permitting man more than one wife. There are good and fair reasons, he responds. First, however, he emphasizes only five Muslim men per thousand embrace masculine prerogative. And those who do are acting altruistically. After all, when Christian man tires of aging wife, he deserts and divorces leaving her emotionally broken and financially destitute. Muslim man would never do this for he cannot divorce. He instead continues financial care of original wife as he takes younger bride who can satisfy. Would it be better to stray and risk sexually transmitted diseases and illegitimate children, asks imam?
Thrice he states to be worthy of enhanced domestic pleasure “man has to be financially and sexually able.” His first wife might still require caress. Without it, she’d be tempted to turn to another man, and that would be intolerable. What about two husbands for one wife, asks another American Muslim woman? That, too, would be impossible since paternity of children couldn’t be certified.