Ramadan began Tuesday for many Muslims around the world. Many Muslim young people around the U.S. have been exploring the ideas of their faith by participating in the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament, which includes competitions in fiction, comedy, photography, and other areas:

[Amina] Iro, a rising senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, took first place last weekend in short fiction at the MIST national championship in Michigan. Her story was about two sisters living in an orphanage. The younger has schizophrenia, making it harder for them to be adopted. The older sister struggles with anger and shame about her sister. Meanwhile, the younger one has elaborate imaginary adventures.

Iro says she is fascinated by people with conditions like schizophrenia and wanted to explore the life of “someone who is generally misunderstood.” As a girl who has been bullied for wearing a hijab, or head covering, she sees parallels with her life as a Muslim in post-Sept. 11 America. She knows what it is like to feel a bit out of the mainstream culture.

“We live in a society where not everyone knows everything about my way of life,” Iro said. “There was a subconscious thought to try and make a connection.”

Anam Khatib, 16, who won the regional short film competition for her video about a relationship between a father and son, went to a religious school for middle school and said observant Muslims “struggle in public school” to resist drinking, drugs and sex. “There’s a lot we know we can’t do. Sometimes we do them and feel guilty.”

Does doing such things make someone a bad person, or a bad Muslim?

“I don’t think anyone is a bad person. Some actions make them feel like they are,” said Khatib, a rising senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, whose parents emigrated from India (her father played the father in the film). “And relationship with God is a very individual thing. Other people can’t judge you on your actions. Only God can.”

Michelle Boorstein

Elsewhere, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called in vain for a truce in the Syrian civil war during Ramadan:

Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that “I am calling for ... every person holding a gun, to stop fighting and offer this month of peace as a collective present to their people.”

Syria has already rejected the idea of a cease-fire with the opposition during Ramadan, which is due to begin Tuesday.

Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said Monday the rebels would have to be fully engaged in peace talks and commit to a U.S.-Russia sponsored round of talks in Geneva.

Associated Press

In Beirut, the month of Ramadan began with a bombing outside a suburban supermarket:

The Bir al-Abed area, where the explosion occurred, is a stronghold for the Shiite Hezbollah group, Lebanon’s most powerful political and military force. The attack came after weeks of rising tensions spurred by the group’s deepening entanglement in the Syrian war.

Live footage from the scene showed blazing fires, a huge cloud of smoke and a six-foot-wide crater carved into the ground. According to al-Manar television station, which is owned by Hezbollah, 18 people were injured, none of them seriously. Some TV stations said the toll was higher.

The parking lot where the bomb exploded is next to a supermarket called the Islamic Cooperation Center, which residents say is owned by a senior Hezbollah official. It would have been busy with shoppers buying supplies ahead of the upcoming month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast in the daytime and feast at night.

Hezbollah’s dispatch of fighters to Syria to aid forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had already prompted threats of retaliation by a number of Syria’s mostly Sunni rebel groups, raising fears that Shiite areas could become targets for attacks.

A rebel Syrian battalion that says it does not follow the main leadership of the Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s blast, although the claim could not be verified. It said the target of the attack had been a nearby Hezbollah security office, and it also said it had carried out two earlier, smaller bombings in other parts of the country.

Liz Sly and Ahmed Ramadan

See images from the first day of Ramadan around the world below.