American Muslims Celebrate Ramadan

November 25, 2000

Source: The Plain Dealer

On November 25, 2000, The Plain Dealer reported that "thousands of miles away from her family in Pakistan, Sabeen Mushtaq couldn't help but think of her relatives as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approached. The George Washington University freshman was living away from home for the first time and missed her family's holy season traditions - especially the egg omelets and homemade bread that her mother cooked for suhur, the family's morning meal...With the advent of Ramadan this year on Nov. 27 (a movable season because the Islamic calendar is lunar-based), Mushtaq and other Muslim students nationwide will join the country's estimated 6 million Muslims in marking Islam's holiest month with prayer, reflection and study of the Koran. Muslims who are able also abstain from eating, drinking and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset during the 30-day period. Communal prayers and Eid ul-Fitr ("feast of the fast breaking") mark the end of the holy days. 'There is definitely a greater sense of community on campus during Ramadan,' said Faten Hijazi, vice president of San Jose State University's Muslim Student Association. 'The whole time you're conscious of your Islamic identity because there's such a sense of unity when the whole school's Muslim population is doing the same thing at the same time.'...Catered iftar dinners (marking the end of the daily fast) bring Muslim students together at George Washington University, said Layla El-Wafi, vice president of the university's student Muslim group, which organizes the dinners. As many as 200 students - including a smattering of non-Muslims - gather at a nearby church to break their fasts with the traditional meal of dates and water before indulging in biryani, falafel and other South Asian fare. 'At the dinners there really is a heightened sense of community - no matter what your background is or what your experiences are, this one month is something we all have in common,' said El-Wafi. 'You feel that support, and that sort of gives you a boost the rest of the year.'...Charity and good deeds are also stressed during Ramadan, and at Georgetown University, Muslim students put those ideals into action by volunteering to distribute food to the homeless or take part in other service projects. They also hold interfaith iftar dinners to teach non-Muslims on campus about Islam. 'The university setting is one of the best opportunities to teach about different faiths,' said Shaheen Kazi, president of Georgetown's Muslim student group. 'When we're in college, it's the one time we're all dedicated to learning - not just in the academic sense, but learning about the people around us.'"