Infidels showing solidarity with Muslims
And whatever the appeal, “it’s all the rage” with college students. CAIR explains why: “The fear is still there, but people are looking for answers, especially the youth. There is a genuine interest to understand, and they don’t see the world the same way as the older generation. They’re not as uptight.”
“Ramadan fast-a-thons raise awareness about Islam among college students,” by Jessica Meyers for the Dallas Morning News, September 19:
RICHARDSON — In a banquet room above the student union’s bopping pingpong balls and blaring arcade games, the groan of empty stomachs met the hum of Arabic prayer.
Tables of 20-somethings at the University of Texas at Dallas drooled over plates of hummus as their Muslim counterparts concluded their pre-dinner supplications for Ramadan. Then everyone ate for the first time since dawn. “Why do they put that in front of us to stare at?” whined 19-year-old Sara Arnold before she got permission to rip a hunk of pita bread and dunk it into the chickpea dip.
The Muslim Students Association’s fast-a-thon — a riff on religious doctrine — draws hundreds of non-Muslim students who choose to fast for one day with their Muslim peers and attend the daily iftar banquet in the evening to break it.
They now share in the age-old custom of spiritual and physical cleansing tied to the holiday, which runs through September this year.
Participation numbers have more than doubled in the last several years, a factor religious scholars and students attribute to an outreach by the Muslim community, solidarity on the part of those who have become fascinated by the Islamic faith, and a curiosity about the spiritual act of fasting itself.
“A lot of people know what Ramadan is now,” said Ayaham Nahhas, the president of the Muslim Students Association at UTD, who says the fast-a-thon — which drew about 120 people — is the biggest activity his organization holds. “Islam has been getting more attention in the media, and people just want to know what we are all about.”
So Muslims are “all about” fasting, nothing more? What about tawhid? How about the shehada — asserting that “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah”? What about jihad fi sabil Allah, warfare against all non-Muslims? Sharia law? Learning what Muslims are “all about” is definitely important, but let’s keep it comprehensive, shall we?
More than 240 Muslim Students Associations host fast-a-thons — groups at Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University are among them — and have raised more than $50,000 for charity. Local businesses donate at least a dollar for each non-Muslim who participates.
All area groups are reporting increased attendance and are donating money to an orphan drive organized by the nonprofit Islamic Relief.
No one’s quite sure why attendance has increased so dramatically recently, seven years after 9/11.
“Maybe it’s a political empathy post-9/11, a wanting to stand alongside and experience something like this for the first time,” said Edina Lekovic of the Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.-based Muslim Public Affairs Counsel.
She said she’s noticed more non-Muslims across the country fasting in solidarity with their Muslim friends this year than ever before. “Whatever it is, it’s all the rage.”
Part of the heightened awareness comes from Muslim outreach efforts, especially fast-breaking celebrations hosted by area mosques that incorporate lessons about Ramadan.
But these interfaith actions are most obvious among college students, said Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“The fear is still there, but people are looking for answers, especially the youth,” he said. “There is a genuine interest to understand, and they don’t see the world the same way as the older generation. They’re not as uptight.”…