Non-Muslims fast to raise donations and awareness

BY
BY ADAM ROSEN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 13, 2003

For non-Muslim students who have ever wondered what its like to
fast all day in observance of Ramadan, the Muslim Students
Association is offering a unique opportunity today.

Kate Green
LAURA SHLECTER/Daily
Rackham student Fatima Ashraf signs up yesterday to help out with the annual Ramadan Fast-a-thon. The event is sponsored by the Muslim Students Association and is intended for non-Muslim students.

MSA is sponsoring an all-day fasting event for non-Muslims with
the goal of assisting a local charity in combating hunger as well
as raising awareness of the Islamic faith during the holy month of
Ramadan.

Dubbed Fast-a-thon, the event, which has attracted between 200
to 300 non-Muslim students, prohibits participants from eating,
drinking all beverages — even water — or smoking
anytime during daylight hours. MSA has arranged for local business
sponsors to donate money to the Ann Arbor Food Gatherers charity
based upon the number of non-Muslims who have pledged to fast.

The student group is holding a free “break fast”
meal open to all students, regardless of whether or not they
fasted, at 5:15 p.m. in West Quad to commemorate the event.

Aisha Jukaku, MSA administrative affairs chair, defined fasting
in Ramadan — one of the five pillars of Islam — as a
time for Muslims to increase their spirituality through hunger and
to learn to be submissive to God.

“Fasting as well as charity are the basis of our religion;
one of the reasons that we fast is to gain self-control over other
aspects of our lives,” Jukaku said.

MSA community affairs chair and event organizer Lubna Grewal
said she feels it will give non-Muslims a unique chance to see what
its like “to be a Muslim for a day” during Ramadan.

This event “gives people a taste of Islam, and as well, is
a very unifying activity,” Grewal said. She added that
“you can disagree with people politically, religiously, or
whatever, but you’re all working towards a common
cause.”

LSA sophomore Cassie Coco said she wanted to participate in
Fast-a-thon because she watched a friend observe Ramadan for years
and wanted to know what it was like.

“I’ve been friends with her for so long and I see
her do it every year, I’d like to know more about her
culture,” Coco said. She added that Fast-a-thon was a good
idea because the proceeds go to charity.

The idea for Fast-a-thon originated with the University of
Tennessee at Knoxville chapter of MSA, which created the event two
years ago to raise awareness of Ramadan around campus.

MSA National, the coordinating body of all Muslim Student
Associations in the country, felt that this event was a great
success and sought to establish it as a national program.
Fast-a-thon is not required by all MSA chapters, but the
University’s MSA decided to implement the program last
year.

Many MSA members said they feel this event is very important for
the community.

“First, it’s a good way to raise money for local
charity, second, (participants) are going to be hungry so that
somebody else doesn’t have to be,” said Jukaku, an LSA
sophomore.

MSA member Nura Sediqe added she thinks this event will help to
bring an awareness of fasting to non-Muslims. “It makes
fasting seem more normal, and establishes connections between
Muslims and non-Muslims that helps unify us more,” said
Sediqe, an LSA freshman.

All local businesses contributing to Fast-a-thon have chosen to
remain anonymous. Grewal related this to the fact that many of the
contributors were Muslim, and “in Islam we believe that
sometimes it is good to participate in anonymous charities, where
no one knows except for God who contributed.”