The sun had set, and it was time for the Maghrib prayer.

A young Muslim clergyman, clad entirely in white, faced east toward Mecca.

The Macon City Council dais sat a few feet in front of him. Behind him, filling the space in front of the council chamber seats, stood two rows of men, including Jack Ellis, Macon’s mayor. Three young women lined up in the rear.

Their hands were clasped to their chests. As the imam chanted in Arabic, the group bent at the waist and then kneeled to the ground, pressing their foreheads to the floor. They repeated the movement several times. A pile of shoes, removed in observance of the fourth prayer of the day, lay cluttered to the side.

The religious entreaty closed a Tuesday session sponsored by Ellis and the Macon Islamic Center that was called to discuss Islam and mark the approaching end of Ramadan. When it was over, the faithful adjourned to the lobby of City Hall to break the day’s fast on a meal of salad, chicken, rice and pasta.

The services highlight ethnic, racial and religious differences that make America strong, said Ellis, who was raised as a Christian but converted to Islam last December. He spoke during a news conference beforehand, where the Rev. Ronald Terry, a Baptist, stood to his left and Rabbi Larry Schlesinger, a City Councilman-elect, to his right.

“This is indicative of the diversity that we find ourselves in,” he said. “This is not about division, although some people would have you believe otherwise.”

About 50 people showed up for the forum and feast. Most were Muslim. Fewer than 10 raised their hand when asked if they followed another faith.

Imams from Atlanta, Robins Air Force Base and the Macon Islamic Center all addressed the audience and preached the importance of Ramadan. The holiday, which concludes Friday, celebrates the ninth month of the Muslim calendar when God is said to have revealed the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. It is marked by daytime fasting and abstinence from earthly pleasures. (MORE)


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