By Spc. Crystal Hudson, U.S. Division-NorthAugust 31, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2011 -- Muslim Soldiers and civilians came together during early morning hours to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, Aug. 30, 2011.
Eid al-Fitr is the culmination of 30 days of fasting and marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
"It is basically like Christmas in our country," said Alaa Abdelazim, cultural advisor for the 4th Infantry Division commanding general.
During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset for 30 days.
"The fasting is not only fasting of the food and water," Abdelazim said, "it is actually fasting from all sin."
Ramadan allows Muslims to understand how it feels to be poor and hungry, Abdelazim said, and added "We share their agony and unfortunate life."
Ramadan has a unifying effect by allowing all Muslims to have a shared experience while fasting.
"We get to know each other. We share the same feelings," said Abdelazim. "We will feel it together. We make peace with each other and we will be closer than we could ever imagine."
Abdelazim, who lives in Killeen, Texas, said at the beginning of Ramadan, not all Muslims on COB Speicher knew each other, but by the end of the month, everyone became friends and felt like a family. Ramadan also brought the fasting Soldiers and civilians closer to their co-workers from other cultures and faiths.
"We have a lot of support from our units and the people who we work with," said Spc. Bashar Ameen, a linguist with 4th Infantry Division. "Without the unit, I wouldn't have been able to do it."
Ameen has been deployed for almost 18 months and it was his second time fasting at COB Speicher. During Ramadan, Muslim Soldiers had the option to change their work schedules from day to night.
"(My leadership) supported me and made me feel like I could do it," Ameen said. "You feel them there, always trying to protect you."
Abdelazim said he has never seen such a high level of support like what the leadership of the 4th Inf. Div. provided during Ramadan.
"Helping us to perform not only our jobs, but even our beliefs, it gives (me) a big sense of happiness, and gives us the morale we need to perform our jobs," said Abdelazim.