Students fast for charity

By Supriya Sinhababu

Nearly 200 students broke a 13-hour fast in the Ida Noyes Cloister Club on Friday, concluding the Muslim Student Association’s (MSA) third annual Ramadan Fast-a-thon. The Fast-a-thon, which invites Muslims and non-Muslims to take part, asks participants to pledge contributions to the Chicago Food Depository.

Observed at over 250 college campuses, the event first took place at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2001. Fast-a-thon organizers hoped to promote understanding of Muslim values in the face of the September 11 attacks.

“It was a major success, so other MSAs followed suit,” said Fida Abuisneineh, community service chair of the U of C’s MSA.

This year, the MSA took pledges from the beginning of fall quarter until the morning of the Fast-a-thon, netting about 220 pledges that totaled over $600.

Participants fasted from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Friday. To celebrate the break of the fast, MSA hosted a catered dinner featuring several speakers and performers.

“I’m sure could be anything, and you’d still like it,” said fourth-year Afshan Mohiuddin to the ravenous pledges awaiting their meal. Mohiuddin, the Fast-a-thon master of ceremonies and former MSA vice president, introduced short performances throughout the evening.

They included a recitation and translation of verses from the Koran, a beat-boxing act about the difficulties of observing Ramadan during high school, and a speech by Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and a Ph.D. candidate in the University’s sociology department.

Nashashibi named fasting and the Islamic concept of taqwa, or higher consciousness, as two aspects that appear in different forms of religion throughout the world.

“The only valid criterion for human stratification is not wealth, class, race, or gender, but taqwa—a deep reverence for the divine,” Nashashibi said.

Non-Muslim pledges participated in the Fast-a-thon for a variety of reasons.

“I’ve lived in the Middle East, and I agree with the principle of Ramadan,” said Natalie Hoover, a research staff member at the University’s Chapin Hall Center for Children. “It’s important to remember how blessed you are to have food.”

Many noted the tribulations of keeping the 13-hour fast.

“I did have to get up early to eat breakfast before 5:30,” said John Thomas III, a first-year graduate student who participated in the Fast-a-thon at another college last year.

“Fasting is very difficult,” said third-year student Alan Vuong. “So I want to help out the cause—to give charity to people who need food.”