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Encountering Religions: Interview 
When I first read about this upcoming project, I had a moment of panic. I was raised Catholic but having abandoned the religion during my teen years, I now consider myself an atheist. Admittedly, I do not have a lot of close friends, or even an acquaintance, who are religious whom I felt comfortable interviewing. So, I find myself quite in a bind. Until one day, while perusing through my phone’s contact list, I came across my friend Sera. Sera is a dear friend of mine, a Muslim and transplant to Atlanta from Saudi Arabia. I suppose the idea of interviewing her did not immediately cross my mind because she is not your “model” Muslim (her words, not mine). Based on appearance, she is not what you would typically think of when one mentions the word Muslim: she has a penchant for rainbow-themed clothes and is not afraid to show it, and instead of donning the traditional hijab, her short wavy hair is dyed a bright pink hue. However, barring her outside appearance, Sera is proud to be a Muslim and knows the importance of the religion in her life. Because of this I decided that she is the perfect candidate for this interview, as I am greatly interested in her perspective as someone who is not a “model” Muslim but still recognizes the religion as being a part of her. Thankfully, Sera was more than willing to lend her help for this project. 
On the day of the interview, I asked Sera if she could meet me at one of our favorite restaurants in Buford Highway. We both share a love for Asian cuisine, in fact it is one of the reasons why we bonded as friends, so it is only fitting that we conduct this interview somewhere we are both comfortable in. I started by first asking her a little about her background. Sera was born in Saudi Arabia and raised Muslim. Interestingly, Arab Muslims only make up less than 20 percent of Muslims in the world (Brodd et al. 471). As such, Islam is the second largest religion in the world, right after Christianity (471). There are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, with large concentrations in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and India. The United States is home to some 3 million Muslims alone. Islam, which means “submission” in Arabic, is a monotheistic religion that only recognizes Allah as its one true God. When asked about this, Sera states that, “we believe in one God and that’s it. We don’t believe in the son of God or anything like that. Just one God and that’s who we pray to. We don’t believe in worshiping anything other than God itself.” I urged her to expand a bit more about this and she said, “one misconception that people have about Muslims is that we don’t believe in Jesus, but the thing is we do. We just believe he’s a prophet so we don’t worship him. We do hold our prophets in higher regard obviously but we don’t worship them the way we worship God.” The most important prophet in the Muslim faith is no doubt, Muhammad. Born in Mecca around 570 C.E., Muslims recognize Muhammad as the final prophet. As the book reiterates, ” Muslims believe that a man called Muhammad began receiving communication from God. The primary source of Islamic teachings is the Qur’an, which Muslims believe is the word of God as revealed to Muhammad” (Brodd et al. 471). Additionally, Muhammad was crucial in the development of the early Muslim community as he served both as its religious and political leader. Muslims see him as the perfect example of how one should devote their lives, which is to submit to God’s will (471). 
As we order our food and settle in our interview, I ask Sera about her favorite aspects of her religion. Her big, dark eyes instantly sparkle and without any hesitation, she declares “Ramadan! I really enjoy it and still practice it even after moving to the States.” Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, considered very sacred among Muslims around the world as they believe that it is when the Qur’an was “first revealed to Muhammad” (Brodd et al. 485). Muslims take part by fasting from dusk to dawn, abstaining from any sexual activity, and avoiding impure thoughts and any form of negativity. Sera says, “fasting during Ramadan means no food or water, no cussing, no sexual contact, no sexual anything really, no bad mouthing, etc from sunrise to sundown. Growing up if we were too young to fast our parents would let us fast for a couple of hours a day just to appease us.” She also adds, “to a lot of people the thought of no food and water for all the daylight hours is really tough but it’s something we’ve been doing for so many years we’re used to it.” Although, some are exempt from taking part, such as pregnant and nursing women, the elderly, the sick, and of course, children. However,  Sera clarifies, “we aren’t required to fast and participate in Ramadan until we hit puberty but obviously all kids want to do what their parents do so we beg our parents to let us fast earlier.”
Furthermore, Ramadan is also a time for all Muslims to engage in self-reflection and to facilitate a sense of community within each other. When asked more about fasting, Sera states “one thing that I love about fasting is that it gives you this absolute clarity. You feel such clarity and spiritualness from it that you never get otherwise. I never get “hangry” (slang used when combining the words “hungry” and “angry”) when I’m fully fasting. I only feel extreme zen and 

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