There was a call to prayer, Muslim students knelt to pray as their non-Muslim counterparts watched in silence, and then they ate dinner. But this was not a typical Saturday meal. The 100 students gathered for dinner had all fasted for the day out of solidarity with Muslims and the hungry.

In an event that brought Muslim and non-Muslim students together to fight hunger in their communities while increasing understanding of the Muslim faith, thousands of students throughout the United States fasted during the Ramadan Fast-A-Thon held at universities during the holy month to raise money for emergency food providers.

Fasting is a central part of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic year, and helping the less fortunate is a central part of Islam. Close to 15,000 people across the continent will have participated to raise more than $33,174 for the hungry according to the official tally.

Students at Georgetown participated in the national event Saturday, attracting a capacity crowd in Copley Formal Lounge.

Mickey Bergman, a captain in the Israeli army and a graduate student in the MSFS program who participated in the Fast-A-Thon on Saturday, agreed. He said that every year he tries to attend an iftar, a meal served after sundown to break the day’s fast during Ramadan, as a way to keep his mind open.

Bergman said that cultural clashes are mainly caused by ignorance, and that by teaching non-Muslims about a Muslim tradition the event was, “beneficial for all.”

Lauren Kuisle (NHS ’06) and Lauren Hancock (NHS ’06) said they found that not being able to drink water was the hardest part.

“I don’t know much about the Muslim religion,” Kuisle said as she prepared to break her fast with a catered dinner of lamb kebabs, saffron rice and hummus. Both agreed that the event helped raise awareness and build understanding of the Muslim religion.

In addition to experiencing Middle Eastern cuisine, students learned about the role of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and listened to Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain in residence, explain the significance of the fourth prayer. He said he hoped that the Fast-A-Thon would send a message that religion is a unifying, not a divisive force.

The day-long event, started last year by the Muslim Students Association at the University of Knoxville, asked students to go hungry for a day so someone else would not have to.

More than 140 campuses throughout the United States, Canada and even one in Nigeria, participated in the second annual Ramadan Fast-A-Thon, making it one of the largest coordinated events of its kind, according to Shaheen Kazim, manager of the Muslim Students Association National Office. Last year 30 campuses participated and about 3,000 individuals pledged to fast.

Faisal Momen, at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said that the Muslim Students Association on his campus joined with the Center for Middle East Studies to put on the event as a way to increase Islamic awareness while bringing together Muslim and non-Muslim students “to eliminate prejudice and ignorance.”

For each student that pledged to fast, local business sponsors donated $1 or more to an emergency food provider. At the conclusion of the fast, students were invited to break their fasts together with an iftar, to which the recipient of the money raised was invited.

George Jones, the executive director of Bread for the City in Washington, D.C., attended the iftar at Georgetown and thanked the students for helping to fight hunger at the center, which provides more than 10,000 people per month with basic groceries.

He said it did not matter how much money was raised because even knowing that one person would be fed was important.

The Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada was founded in 1963. Since then, it has served thousands of Muslim students throughout North America. Headquartered just outside Washington, D.C., it provides a number of services and programs to college and high school students and holds a number of major conferences during the academic year.

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