Deep within the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, about 100 people of various faiths and ethnicities gathered to learn about one another's cultures last night.
"You will find every color that God has created in that room," said Isma Chaudhry, Islamic center president, of the annual interfaith event that includes a program and an iftar, or breaking of the daily fast during the month of Ramadan.
The celebration is "close to my heart," Chaudhry said.See alsoCelebrations, brunches: LIers mark the end of RamadanMore coverageReligion on Long Island: Stories, photos, videos
At exactly 8:33 p.m., those gathered for the 12th annual celebration at the center nibbled on dates and nuts and dug into plates piled high with rice, chickpeas, kebabs, naan and mango mousse.
"Right when you break your fast, it's tradition to eat a date," said Shahla Partowmah, 19, of Westbury, who works in the center's front office.
Chaudhry said the event is an opportunity for those of different faiths to share what is on their minds.
For many, that was last month's shooting of nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
After reciting the opening verse of the Quran, Chaudhry began the evening with a moment of silence for the nine victims of the shooting.
"Think about what drives hate: phobia," she said.
Steven Markowitz, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, who has attended the celebration for about 10 years, said that those gathered at the interfaith service reflected "the changing face of Long Island."
"Every day it becomes more and more diverse," Markowitz said.
Ibrahim Negm, an Islamic center adviser, summarized five verses of the Quran. One emphasized that although people have differences, they have "staggering commonalities." Another emphasized the need for people to work together for a better world.
"At this very moment we are pleasing God," he told those gathered. "We are fulfilling his vision."
DuWayne Gregory, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, said: "We have to come together hand in hand, push past the hatred, and be what America can be."
Town of Hempstead Supervisor Judy Bosworth said, as a child of Holocaust survivors, she understood the need for people of different faiths to come together.
"As we stand together, we're strong and we counter those who want to divide us," she said.
Observant Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, which commemorates when the prophet Muhammad received the Quran, the holiest book in Islam, from the angel Gabriel in the year 610.
This year, Ramadan began on June 17 or 18, depending upon how the faithful determine when the new moon appeared, and lasts until July 17.
During Ramadan, Muslims go to bed around midnight, after the last prayer of the day, and rise at about 3 a.m. so they can have a light breakfast before dawn and say the first prayer of the new day.
From then until about 8:30 p.m., they do not eat or even drink water.
Police said the Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, 21, spewed racist invective as he shot the nine people at a midweek Bible study. He has been charged with nine counts of murder and is being held on $1 million bail.