FALMOUTH – Rumi says there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Who would have thought that after living in Maine for 27 years, I’d get to kneel down and with my forehead touch the floor of the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland’s downtown?

I got exactly to do that last Sunday, as local Muslims from near and far gathered for the Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of Ramadan, a month when Muslims must abstain from food, drink and evil thoughts and words from dawn to dusk. Fasting in Ramadan allows Muslims to seek closeness to Allah, to atone for past sins and to be mindful of those going without food.

Thinking back, kissing the ground at the civic center — where many music giants, comedians and sports teams have performed and competed — was not that strange. After all, with civic life mimicking religion in an increasingly secular America, and sports becoming a religion in itself for many, the civic center might as well be considered a temple of sort standing on a sacred ground.

Still, it felt weird kneeling down and calling the Creator’s name in the cavernous hall with wall posters advertising locally brewed beer.

Watching the neat rows of men and women standing to pray, my first thought was, Islam has arrived in Maine! But I knew better: Islam has been present in the Pine Tree State for a long time.

Back in the early 1900s, Islam came to this part of the United States, gently, like a soft mist rising from the ocean, when a group of Albanian and Turkish artists and fabric designers were recruited to work at the textile mills in Biddeford. Their numbers grew and soon they had a space designated for praying and a portion of a cemetery in Biddeford reserved for their dead.

The community vanished once the infamous Spanish influenza came to Maine. A century later, and all that remains of the early Muslims are a dozen or so gravestones marked with Islamic names and symbols at the cemetery.

Apart from the few African American Muslims living in Maine already, the next wave of Muslims coming to Maine were mostly foreign students.

Maine’s newly arrived Muslims are different in many ways. Most came here to escape wars and persecution in their homelands, some are well-educated professionals from India, Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and the Middle East, and there are students who continue to arrive to attend Maine’s colleges and universities.

All in all, they represent the broad racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity of the Islamic world — a fact that many Americans are unaware of, for most think of all Muslims as being Arabs.

When I came to Maine, practicing my faith was a challenge; there were no mosques and I could not find halal food. At risk of starvation just as I was about to start a new life, I soon discovered the kosher food items meant for the Jewish customers! These days, Maine has eight mosques, with four of them in Portland alone. There are more than 20 food markets owned and run by Muslims selling halal food.

Back at the civic center, the men lined up and prayed in unison. Women did the same, while the younger children cried.

I don’t know about the others in the hall, but I felt a sense of pride in calling Portland home. I realized, with a lump inside my throat, that after years of passing by the monstrous building, recognizing it as a place for the sports and music lovers, the locals, now it belonged to me as well.

A sense of ownership in a community, just like falling in love with a city like Portland, is gained not only by belonging to a local team, cheering for your favorite athletes and musician, dancing to a familiar tune and liking the locally brewed beer, but also by kneeling down and kissing the floor once in a while.

Reza Jalali is employed at the University of Southern Maine. He’s the author of the award-winning children’s book, “Moon Watchers.”