Sep 252008
 
Authors: Jim Sojourner

When the Muslim world celebrates Ramadan, they do it with closed restaurants, adjusted work hours that accommodate the celebration’s pre-dawn meal and meal preparation, and schools that are often dismissed early, if open at all.

Proper observance of the Ramadan fast is no easy feat in the U.S., though, members of Muslim Students Association said.

Zaki Safar, former CSU student and former president of the MSA, said the observation is so much more difficult in the U.S. because Muslims do not receive concessions similar to the ones they do in Eastern regions. Education about Ramadan and Muslim life is severely lacking in the U.S., he said, and more steps need to be taken to create greater awareness.

He added that events such as the Islamic Cultural Night are just one good way to achieve a higher level of understanding. With Ramadan ending next week, the Muslim Student Association and CSU’s Apartment Life will be hosting the 18th annual Islamic Cultural Night on Saturday in hopes of creating greater awareness about the Muslim community at CSU and the importance of the Islamic holiday.

The event is taking place starting at 6 p.m. in building 34 of the University Village Center on West Plum Street.

Salih Abdul-Mateen, the president of the MSA, said the night is intended to be a fun experience that will help educate students about the holy month and the Muslim community.

“Most people in the USA don’t really know about Islam, Muslims or the [Muslim] culture,” Abdul-Mateen said.

Ramadan falls around September each year, but the specific dates depend on the Islamic Lunar Calendar. This year, it runs from Sept. 1 through Sept. 30.

During Ramadan, all healthy Muslims are expected to adhere to a fast that lasts from sunrise to sunset. Muslims eat a Suhoor, or predawn meal, to start the day, and they break the fast at dusk.

Abdul-Mateen said the Islamic Cultural Night will consist of a variety of different activities designed to spread awareness about Ramadan and will culminate with a Ramadan Awareness dinner that will break the fast that night.

He said volunteers are setting up booths that will provide information about the Ramadan and Muslims in general.

He said some booths will also feature artwork from various Muslim countries.

A short segment of the documentary “American Ramadan” will be played before dinner. Abdul-Mateen said the film provides a glimpse into how different families break the fast, as well as the challenges they face in America.

“That’s why the month symbolizes devotion to the Lord and adherents to His commands,” Safar said.

Abdul-Mateen said the final and most anticipated element of the night will be the Ramadan Awareness Dinner, which breaks the fast that day. He said members of the community are contributing authentic dishes from the Middle East to provide a unique experience.

Mikal Abdul-Mateen, a Muslim chaplain in the Maryland Prison System, will speak at the dinner as to the benefits fasting provides.

Salih Abdul-Mateen said these benefits include a perspective on what is important in an individual’s life as well as a perspective on how those who frequently do not have a meal feel. He said that the MSA is looking forward to the program and is excited to do its part.

“It’s a really big staple of the MSA. A lot of people are interested,” Abdul-Mateen said. “I’m kind of nervous and anxious, but happy I get the opportunity to teach people about my religion and my way of life.”

Safar said a common understanding will pave the way for greater unity in Fort Collins.

“In an era where knowledge is the most effective tool to dispel long-held stereotypes and clear up common misconceptions, the dinner will help create and bring religious and cultural Islamic awareness to the CSU student body and Fort Collins community,” Safar said.

“Through dialogue and civil discussion, the attendees will hopefully leave the dinner not only with full stomachs, but also with a new perspective about the Islamic faith while getting their questions answered.”

Staff writer Jim Sojourner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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