Thursday, October 05, 2006

NewU: MSU Fast-a-thon

The NewU did this puff piece on the annual MSU charity event "Fast-a-thon" and - as can be expected - not a word on their history of anti-Semitism.

Link to article

MSU Fast-a-thon
By Madelyne Oliver

Hungry students drifted into the Bren Events Center. During the ensuing banquet, hijabs were common and casual conversation between Muslim students flowed throughout the room.

These students were breaking fast at sunset for the Ramadan, the holiest and most significant month in the Muslim calendar.

The Fast-a-thon, a month of fasting supported by monetary pledges, began officially on the morning of Sept. 23. The period of fasting will last until sunset on Oct. 25.

It is a time when all Muslims sacrifice food as a reminder to observe their faith in God and to think of those who are starving daily.

Muslims believe that for every day they fast, food is being given to another person to eat. The notion is that homeless and needy people live without food, and those who have the luxury of food take it for granted.

Rhonda Ragab, a second-year psychology and social behavior major, explained that the Fast-a-thon is also intended to promote tolerance and understanding among those who are not aware of Muslim beliefs and customs.

For Muslims, this is a time to better their relationship with God. They display their faith by giving back to the community and different charities, thus avoiding self-indulgence.

This successful event erupted as a national campaign 60 years ago, reaching universities and eventually UC Irvine, which has held the event for the last five years.

Marya Bangee, a third-year sociology and English double major and Active External Publication Relations board member of MSU, reported that an estimated 200 Muslims and 100 non-Muslims attended and participated in the Fast-a-thon banquet last year.

The Fast-a-thon will give to charity by donating the proceeds collected from pledges and donations at the banquet.

Last year, MSU made $1,500 and donated it to relief organizations aiding the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Pakistan. This year the proceeds will go to Dignity Coalition for the Homeless, which provides medical aid for homeless people in Los Angeles.

As dark purples and bright pinks sauntered across the sky at sunset, members of MSU ate a date to end the fast and then washed their hands and face, showing their thanks for food and God.

After prayer, the feast delicious foods began. Eating is permitted until the shreds of daylight return.

Sunrise breaks with the first prayer (Fajr). The next prayers are at mid-afternoon (Dhuhr), afternoon (Asr), sunset (Maghrib) and night (Isha). Prayer plays an important role in the Muslim religion.

Some who are unaware of the traditions of Ramadan might think that sunset is a time to “pig out.” This, however, is not the idea.

While most of us enjoy three meals a day, there are people in the world who starve. Muslims believe that it is the command of God to fast, and they observe this by eating only when their religion allows them to.

“Being Muslim intermixed with others—lots of stereotypes are working against you, and here at UCI we stick together,” Bangee said. “I see it as an opportunity to reach out, because we are all human.”

Even though colorful hijabs are commonplace and prayer is expected, non-Muslims need not be intimidated when participating in this tradition with MSU.

A friendly greeting of “As-Salamu Alaykum” (peace of God be upon you) may softly sound in your ear as you pop a date in your mouth. Join the conversation and remember that we are all humans who are eating for those who can’t.

For more information about the Ramadan, Fast-a-thon and the Muslim Student Union, please visit http;//

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