Gathering for Ramadan for the First Time Since the Pandemic Began: Last week, Maleika Jones was still waiting for a package of Ramadan decorations. In her preparations for the monthlong holiday, which in the United States begins on Saturday, she ordered festive lights and trimming to hang up for her family’s celebrations as they break the fast each night.
“Of course, even though it’s an Amazon order, it takes several weeks to get here,” she said.
Ms. Jones lives in Anchorage, home to Alaska’s only mosque — some 6,700 miles west of Mecca, in a commercial district of the city, next to a sports bar and an insulation contractor’s office, with views of the Chugach Mountains.
The mosque — the northernmost in the country — is also the heart of a growing Muslim community that is preparing to gather for Ramadan for the first time since the pandemic began. The roughly 2,500 Muslims in the Anchorage area come from all over the world; they’re immigrants, refugees, locals, veterans, students and others, all sharing a faith and a love of food.
The Muslim community “is quite a diverse population, but then we’re all able to come together on the common grounds of our faith and traditions, the core traditions,” said Ms. Jones’s husband, Gregory Shuaib Jones, an electrician. “The different ethnic groups may have some slight variations in the style of their cooking or the style of their dress, but the core is there.”
The Joneses moved to Anchorage from South Carolina in 2009 with the purpose of teaching people about Islam. Both are members of the Anchorage Interfaith Council, and Ms. Jones is the co-chair.
Anchorage is one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse cities, with more than 100 languages represented in its public school system. People often move to the area as part of the military, as new immigrants or as refugees — many from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Cuba, Iraq and Bhutan. Most recently, 100 refugees from Afghanistan have settled in the area.
Heather Barbour, a lawyer and a leader in local Muslim circles, said the mosque — formally, the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage Alaska — has members from 40 to 50 countries.
“I love the fact that there are so many different cultures and people from all over the world, and I think that makes Anchorage a very rich city,” she said. “The Muslim community is kind of a microcosm of that. You take that diversity and you kind of shrink it down and that’s the mosque.”
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