Muslims of all ethnicities break fast together

SINGAPORE - It is 6.45pm and Ms Farah Singh walks through rows of individuals seated as they await dinner, arranging chairs and finding a spot for herself and her fellow volunteer, Ms Nur Ashalina Ang.

Half an hour later, the call to prayer sounds, and the two friends take a sip of water, their first after close to 14 hours of fasting.

They were among close to 400 Muslims who painted a diverse picture last Saturday as they broke their fast at Darul Arqam, or the Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore in Onan Road.

Among them were Chinese, Filipinos and Indians, several of whom are recent converts to the religion.

Some of them were accompanied by their family members who are not Muslim.

Since 2009, about 600 people have converted to Islam here each year, said the association. The figure stood at around 500 about a decade ago.

The association believes there is a greater awareness about the religion, especially with the advent of social media.

"The association exists to serve as a bridge between the different communities in Singapore.

"It's a melting pot of many different ethnicities and brings together people united by a common belief," said a spokesman for the association.

Ms Ang, 23, learnt about the religion on her own after "developing an interest" in Islam five years ago as an 18-year-old.

The relief teacher converted in 2010.

"I tried fasting for a few years first before finally deciding to convert, so I've got used to it already," she said.

Ms Farah, a housewife who converted in 2011, still remembers the "challenge" of her first Ramadan.

"It was really difficult for me. I had a migraine the first day and pretty much felt weak the whole time. It took some practice for me to be as active as I am now," recalled the 24-year-old.

Both converts consider Darul Arqam a "second home", and regularly attend weekly lectures. They also volunteer during weekends.

Breaking the fast together is like a gathering of one "large family", said Ms Farah.

"It's like we have a second home here, and it's nice to be able to gather so many people of different backgrounds together to have a meal.

"It's one of my favourite parts of Ramadan," she said.

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