Arab Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim Community Leaders, including activists Mohammad Mahab, Eng. Assanul Haque, and Mamnunul Haque, greeted hospital staff with warm handshakes and hugs as people gathered around the conference table.
Beginning at 7:30pm, hospital officials and muslim community leaders took the podium to honor the holy month of Ramadan as the sun set over Borough Park.
As the program began, women in multicolored hijabs and dresses gathered in chairs on the right side of the room, which was so crowded that many latecomers had to huddle by the entrance. Father Khader El-Yateen and Husam Rimawi made introductory speeches, after a boy from the Al-Noor School named Ahmen Zahid sung a passage from the Quran.
Rimawi spoke graciously about the hospital’s effort to respect the needs of the ethnically and racially diverse community of Muslims living in Kensington, Borough Park, and other surrounding neighborhoods. Maimonides’ patient base is 10 percent Muslim and growing, Rimawi said, and 10 percent of physicians on staff speak Arabic or Urdu.
He illustrated three predominant issues between Muslims and the hospital: providing gender-specific care, Halal food, and establishing a neutral prayer place for patients. In addition, he stressed the importance of holding cultural sensitivity trainings for doctors and hospital staff, “so when they see a woman walking down the hall in a Hijab, they are not startled or frightened,” he said.
Kenneth Gibbs, Maimonides president and CEO, expressed his deep respect for Ramadan and Muslim culture. “Modern science, mathematics, and medicine have deep roots in [Muslim] culture,” Gibbs said. He also reflected on the international relationship between religious communities. “We are a set of communities that have challenges elsewhere in the world, but in Brooklyn we function together,” he said.
Dozens of cameras flashed and snapped as the keynote speaker, Sarah Sayeed, Ph.D, took the stage. Sayeed, a senior adviser of community affairs at the Mayor’s office, gave a heartfelt address about the spiritual benefits of Ramadan, and a call to get the muslim community engaged in the Mayor’s NYC ID program.
A rousing call to prayer and hearty feast followed the speeches, as the community celebrated the post-sundown Iftar and broke their daily Ramadan fast.
Community activists from the Church McDonald Bangladeshi Business Association (CMBBA), are hosting Ramadan Iftar celebrations throughout the month, including an event tonight June 23rd at 7pm, at the Green House Restaurant, located at 90 Church Avenue.