A day of tolerance and an observance of fasting during the Muslim holiday, Ramadan offered many Muslim and non-Muslim students a chance to gather together and partake in a celebratory dinner to break the fast.
The dinner, held in the Wedge Room in West Quad Residence Hall, featured speeches by Rabbi Shena Potter of Hillel, Minister Roger Pohl of the Ecumenical Center and International Residence and Ibrahim Ozdemir, a faculty member at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn.
During his speech, Ozdemir focused on the importance of interfaith tolerance and charity on an international level as a function of the observance of Ramadan.
“Ramadan is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, altruism and self-control. We Muslims think of it as kind of a tune-up for our spiritual and physical well-being,” he said. “The emphasis of fasting is on self-restraint more than anything else.”
Ozdemir said that over 2 billion Muslims observe Ramadan and only those who are children, ill or close to childbirth are excused from the practice. With the number of days and months in the Islamic calendar fluctuating from year to year, the beginning of Ramadan fell on Nov. 6 this year.
“Fasting gives us a new spirit and opportunity to help the needy, because giving charity is a part of fasting,” Ozdemir said.
“Through fasting, we experience hunger and thirst, and we sympathize with those in the world who have little to eat every day.
In addition, we must continue to work even when you are hungry.”
Ozdemir said that helping those in need is an important aspect of Ramadan.
“People often invite one another to their houses, don’t discriminate between poor and rich or Christian and Jew,” he said.
“Few challenges loom further than understanding others’ viewpoints. Better understanding and peaceful relations are not only good, but also essential. Justice entitles everyone to the basic necessity of life. Compassion for fellow man is true thankfulness,” he added.
Potter said that the theme of charity is related to an understanding of the nature of God found in Jewish doctrine.
Mucahit Bilici, a member of the Muslim Graduate Students Association, also said he sees the day of fasting as an opportunity for people to leave their comfort zones and help others.
“We believe in the importance of communication, face-to-face contact which values people not as numbers, but as people.
“Ramadan is a special month for Muslims to overcome their own ego, solidify with other communities and those who are not communicating resume communication,” he said.
Bilici also emphasized the desire of the MGS to bridge gaps and respect differences among others. “Because of a belief that one must be in a dialogue and tolerant of others, Muslims have historically been multicultural.”
Ozdemir said that fasting makes differences less salient among observers of different faiths.
“There is an interfaith dimension of fasting which involves different traditions and recognizes that fasting is prevalent among many religions as all prophets have communicated a need to fast,” Ozdemir said.
The Muslim Graduate Students Association, the Muslim Students’ Association, the Pakistani Students Organization and the Arab Student Association sponsored the dinner.