Muslim Students Association helps Utah’s hungry by fasting

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On Friday, some students will be skipping breakfast and passing up lunch for charity.

The U’s Muslim Students Association will cap off Muslim Awareness Week with a Ramadan fast-a-thon event benefiting the Utah Food Bank.

Local businesses have offered to pay $5 for every student who pledges to avoid eating and drinking during daylight hours.

Muslims worldwide fast from sunup to sundown during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan to practice self-control and focus on charity. In North America, Ramadan began Sept. 24 and will end Oct. 22.

MSA president Anwar Arafat, a senior majoring in film studies, said the fast-a-thon provides an opportunity for Muslim students to connect with the larger U community. “We’ve gotten a lot of good responses from professors and other students,” he said.

Arafat said several students have already signed on to fast.

Jumana Abu-Khalaf, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, said the event brings people together. “We’ve had Christians, Mormons, Jews and even atheists (participate in the fast),” she said.

Jake Madsen, a senior in political science, Spanish and international studies, has been part of previous fast-a-thons at the U. “The fast-a-thon, for me, even though I wasn’t Muslim, was a spiritual experience,” he said.

Madsen, who serves as president of the U Interfaith Council, said it helped him feel more connected to Islam. “You can learn a lot more about another faith, but when you have a spiritual experience, it makes it less foreign,” he said.

Abu-Khalaf said she hopes the event can help foster understanding and help clear up negative stereotypes people hold toward Islam. “In the media, you only hear about the bad Muslims,” she said.

Arafat shared similar thoughts. “Islam is one of the most tolerant faiths out there,” he said. “Which is contrary to what many people perceive.”

This is the third year the MSA has put on the fast-a-thon and the fourth year it has recognized Muslim Awareness Week.

The money raised from last year’s fast-a-thon went to help Pakistani earthquake victims. This year, MSA decided to keep the donated money in Utah. “We really care about this community,” Abu-Khalaf said.

“If we, as Muslims, don’t help our local community, we are slacking off,” Arafat said.

Students who sign up for the fast-a-thon are invited to meet in the Union’s Saltair Room on Friday at 5:30 p.m. to share a meal with members of MSA.

Those interested in participating in the fast-a-thon can contact the MSA via e-mail at [email protected]