Like 1.6 billion Muslims around the world fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, Jeff Cook has been rising before dawn each morning to have breakfast. He doesn’t eat again until breaking his fast with dinner.
But Mr. Cook isn’t Muslim, doesn’t have close Muslims friends, and has never been inside a mosque. The Christian pastor from Greeley, Colo., is fasting for the 30 days of Ramadan, which ends Friday, as part of a nascent effort among American Christians to better understand and support Muslims.
Muslims make up less than 2% of the U.S. population, and are expected to remain a small minority in the U.S. for decades, even as Islam grows rapidly in other parts of the world. Still, aggressive recruiting efforts by Islamic extremists in the West and calls for attacks from within has affected the larger Muslim community here, and colored many Americans’ views of them.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Americans have more negative feelings toward Muslims than any other religious group.
“I’m fasting to remind myself there’s people all over the world that matter to God who embrace Islam,” Mr. Cook said recently. “I want to remind myself and my culture that we can have a different posture in our hearts toward those who embrace Islam.”
His fasting has been tested daily, most severely by a bag of Corn Nuts his family munched on during a five-hour road trip to South Dakota. His wife and two small sons support him, but aren’t fasting themselves.
He remembers thinking, “Those Corn Nuts look like filet mignon right now.”