More than 200 students and community members both Muslim and non-Muslim gathered in Stockwell Residence Hall last night to break their fast and celebrate the ongoing month of Ramadan.
“One of the nicest things about Ramadan is being able to break the fast with other people who have been fasting too,” said LSA senior Jaffer Odeh. “Events like these are opportunities to bring people together and to spread information about the Muslim culture.”
Ratib Habbal, a member of the education committee at the Islamic Center of Ann Arbor, was asked to discuss Ramadan and the virtues of fasting with the group.
“Ramadan is a very important part of the year for Muslims. Not only do we refrain from eating and drinking during the day, we also use this time of the year to rejuvenate ourselves. We reflect on the past year and hold ourselves responsible for our actions,” Habbal said.
Students noted that more people are aware of Ramadan this year because of the war in Afghanistan.
“Ramadan as a holiday is the same this year as it was last, but there is definitely more media attention now,” said Wasseem Abaza, an LSA junior. “Hopefully events like tonight”s dinner will help to teach people about Muslims and help them to understand us.”
“I came to meet with everyone and to bring some of my non-Muslim friends,” said Razi Haque, an Engineering sophomore. “I think the point of tonight was two-fold: to unite Muslims during the holy month and to teach our non-Muslim friends about our religion and our culture.”
Kristine Abouzahr, an Ann Arbor resident, who has been visiting local schools to teach students about Islam and Ramadan, said this year”s Ramadan has been slightly more stressful than last year”s holiday.
“American Muslims have had a high profile in the media lately,” Abouzahr said. “As a result of this added attention, Ramadan has been a bit more stressful. I feel like more people are watching what we do.”
Eamann Alazem, whose husband led the evening prayer, said she hopes people who participate in campus Ramadan activities will gain a greater appreciation of Islam.
“I think this sparked the interest of many non-Muslims. We hold these events in part to gather and break the fast, but also to teach others about our faith and customs,” said Alazem, an education senior at Eastern Michigan University.
Cameron Holden, an LSA senior, was brought to the dinner called an iftar by one of her Muslim friends.
“I came because my friend invited me and because I am interested in learning more about Ramadan,” Holden said.
Rawan Yaqub is an LSA freshman from Saudi Arabia.
“Ramadan is a little different for me this year because I am not with my family,” said Yaqub. “So I came tonight to be with other Muslims during Ramadan.
“Last year, in Saudi Arabia, my family and I would wake up at 5 a.m. for the daily suhoor, an early morning meal. I have noticed Muslims do not do that here. Another difference I have noticed is that during the month of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, stores stay open later. They don”t do that here.”
Traditionally, Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown throughout the month, which continues for two more weeks.
The Ramadan Dinner was sponsored by the Muslim Students” Association, Islamic Education Society, Arab Students” Association, Egyptian Students” Association, Pakistani Students” Association, Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Persian Students” Association.