Featured photo: A Quran on display inside the Islamic Center of the Triad (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

I’ve never been religious.

I grew up in a Japanese household that was secular and atheist. But being in the South, I was confronted with many types of religion and faith traditions from a young age. And I didn’t understand them until I was older.

I always thought that religion and faith were unnecessary, that the idea that people had to be believers to be moral, to be good, was flawed. And I still think that. I know plenty of godless people  who lead ethical lives, folks I consider friends and loved ones. 

So it may seem strange that we’ve dedicated almost an entire issue to the observance of Ramadan. As I mentioned, I’ve never been religious, and so I don’t know much about different faith communities. 

This past month, I visited a mosque for the first time; I wore a hijab for the first time; I observed a breaking of a fast for the first time. And while I’m no closer to converting to Islam than I am any other religion, I knew it was important to convey those moments to a wider audience. 

There are many Muslim friends and families in our community. And they are hurting so deeply right now as the genocide in Gaza continues to unfurl before our eyes. 

And so, despite my own personal misgivings with religion, I knew that shining a light on this culture, this faith tradition was what was needed in the paper this week. Because as they say in Arabic, when one person is hurting, we all are.

And I think we can all agree with that sentiment, religious or not. 

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