NOIDA, India (AP) — Kneeling under a midday sun on mats laid over an unfinished pavement, Fakhruddin places his hands and head to the ground in prayer.
He joins hundreds of other devoted Indian Muslims in a lot surrounded by towering residential apartments outside of a Muslim shrine that has become a makeshift mosque.
Fakhruddin, 45, who operates a roadside barbershop, is an Indian Muslim and a minority in predominantly Hindu India.
Like many Muslims worldwide, Fakhruddin is currently observing Ramadan — a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. He answers some questions about his faith and Islam's holiest month:
Q: HOW IMPORTANT IS PRAYER TO YOU?
A: It's the core of Islam. It's more important than anything else. I do not say that I pray five times a day and seven days a week but I always try my best to pray wherever I am.
Q: DO YOU ALWAYS PRAY HERE?
A: I always pray here whether it's Ramadan or not. Prayers are not mandatory only in Ramadan, but throughout the year. Only the reward is greater if you pray in a mosque in a congregation in Ramadan
Q: IF YOU COULD CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT RAMADAN, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A: I wish the weather was (more) pleasant. It is very trying to fast when temperatures soar as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Farenheit). I work in the open. We pray in the open no matter how hot it gets. Allah never fails its servants.
Q: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO YOU ABOUT BEING A MUSLIM IN INDIA?
A: My identity. There are few visible things that a Muslim is supposed to follow, like sporting a beard, a skullcap. Other things cannot be seen, for example; being helpful, good behavior etc. But unfortunately, we are forced to conceal our visible identity. A bearded man with a skullcap is seen as a threat in India and therefore subjected to humiliation. There was a time when I also had beard but had to shave it off. To be honest I am running my business here in front of the mosque so that I could feel secure.
Each day this week the Associated Press will focus on a Muslim devotee living in the minority in the Asia-Pacific region, illustrating what the fasting month of Ramadan means to the Muslim community in that country.
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