And, perhaps saddest of all, a terrorist in Norway, a so-called Christian, latched on to the vitriolic anti-Islamic rhetoric of several prominent American bloggers and pundits and killed more than 80 Norwegians. More than anything, this terrorist attack showed that hate inspires hate. The 1,500-page manifesto of Anders Breivik reveals how the hate speech of several American anti-Islam activists helped encourage him to commit acts of terror in his home country.

Was it vindication for Muslim Americans to know the rhetoric and anti-Islamic vitriol that we live with helped to cause such a tragedy? No. Vindication is not what Muslim Americans are seeking. We are seeking to live our lives and practice our faiths in a respected and accepted manner in the United States. We are seeking the right to live our lives as Americans and Muslims. And Ramadan is our time—our time to embrace who we are unabashedly, to practice our faith as a whole community, to seek coolness and peace in fasting for the sake of Allah, to show by example what it truly means to be Muslim.

We want everyone to know what we're doing, to understand why Ramadan is so special to us, to show how important it is for us to partake in the physical and spiritual rituals of this holy month. When I see the outpouring of Ramadan Mubaraks in the virtual world as well as in my daily life, when I see the eagerness Muslims have in anticipation of this month, I feel like I am riding a tidal wave of joy and relief, hope and seeking that pours into our mosques, homes, and hearts.

Those who want to hate Muslims, those who want to mistrust us, those who seek to paint all American Muslims with a monolithic brush—I know we won't be able to reach them with our Ramadan experiences. But there's a wide swath of Americans who don't know what to think about their fellow American Muslims, who are on the fence, so to speak, about how we fit into the American landscape. And while I don't think we need to prove that we can be American and Muslim, sharing our Ramadan joy and experiences (as we already are doing) can only serve to show everyone the beauty and wonder of the way we know.

This is the Ramadan story I want to cover—how this holy month continues to help us grow our bonds as a Muslim community by the shared practice of fasting, worship, and prayer, of seeking to better ourselves and letting go of bad habits. By so doing, we are doing many of the same things that make up the cornerstones of this country and of all humanity—becoming good people, giving up what is bad or harmful, and growing closer to God.

Check back to Patheos to learn more about the Ramadan and American Muslims this month, and be sure to read a special Ramadan blog—"Spiritual Appetite: Observing Ramadan with Wajahat Ali"—to get a taste of the entire Ramadan experience—the good, the tough, the struggles, and the sublime.

Happy Ramadan!