Muslim fast fights hunger

For three days this month, the Muslim Students Association invited fellow Yalies, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, to evening meals to both commemorate and combat the hunger felt by the homeless during the holy month of Ramadan.

Today marks the conclusion of the third annual fast-a-thon organized by the MSA, in which people from the Yale community can break the traditional daily fast with Muslim students in exchange for a monetary or canned food donation for the New Haven Evening Soup Kitchen. Muslims observe a daily fast from sunrise to sundown to honor the hunger felt by the homeless and poor during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar.

Dinners during Ramadan, held at the Visitors’ Center, feature customary Halal food provided by Yale Catering Services. Though non-Muslim students have been present at most of the dinners this month, tonight’s dinner will be the last opportunity for students to donate to New Haven’s poor through the MSA.

“The Muslim faith believes that we should feel for those that go hungry and that we should deprive ourselves of these luxuries for this month,” MSA social chair Fatema al-Arayedh ’07 said. “The fast-a-thon is a way for others to experience Ramadan with Muslim students and also get a chance to help out those in need.”

Altaf Saadi ’08, the freshman liaison for the MSA and co-organizer of the fast-a-thon, anticipates tonight’s dinner will yield the most contributions.

“[Thursday] is our last day, and we should have more people bringing in donations,” Saadi said.

Saadi said this Ramadan, Muslims at Yale have worked with other groups on campus, such as the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project.

Last year, the YHHAP fast, in which students donate their meal swipes for a day to feed the homeless, coincided with Ramadan and the two groups fasted together. This year, although the YHHAP fast is not during Ramadan, the two groups still collaborated.

“YHHAP co-sponsored our fast-a-thon and has helped to publicize our fast to people that sign up for their fast,” Saadi said. “The general idea is that people would vow to fast with us too, although it is great if they just come have dinner with us and make a donation for the hungry.”

Non-Muslims have played an active role in this year’s Ramadan observance, and according to al-Arayedh and Saadi, at least five to 10 non-Muslims have attended every Ramadan dinner since the beginning of the month, including the previous two dinners during the fast-a-thon.

“What I think is best about the fast-a-thon is that it brings people of all cultures and faiths together,” Saadi said. “We have had non-Muslims with us last night, we have some tonight, and we have had some every night to break-fast with us.”

Diana Greenwold ’05, a non-Muslim student who attended the fast-a-thon last night, said the meals represent one way students of different cultures can come together at Yale.

“The great thing about Yale is that there are so many different cultures, so much going on, it’s nice to take a little time out and do something you’ve never done before,” Greenwold said. “The best part about this place is the diversity of the students, and that’s where you learn the most.”

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