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Ramadan fast ends Saturday

Joseph McMahon | Friday, October 12, 2007

As the month of Ramadan draws to a close this Saturday, followers of the faith celebrate the end of fasting, while at Notre Dame, the Muslim community expressed gratitude to Campus Ministry for creating a welcoming environment, especially during the holy month.

Although the estimated statistics say there are only around 30 Muslim undergraduates and graduates at the University, Campus Ministry has gone to great lengths to make sure they are able to practice their faith at Notre Dame.

Priscilla Wong, assistant director administrator and campus coordinator at Campus Ministry, serves as a special advisor to the Muslim Students Association (MSA).

“We are trying to provide support and hospitality to all our students regardless of their different faiths and traditions,” she said. “We want to make sure they can practice their faith in a comfortable environment. It is about supporting and respecting students so that they can have a meaningful growing experience at Notre Dame.”

As it is an Islamic tradition to wash before prayer, Campus Ministry recently updated its meditation room to include a fountain.

Islamic prayers are included in Campus Ministry’s Prayer Around the World celebration, and on Sept. 17, Campus Ministry, along with the MSA, hosted a dinner called an Iftaar, which is the meal Muslims eat after sunset during Ramadan.

Sarah Shafiq, a graduate student majoring in sociology, is the president of the MSA. She is an international student from Pakistan, and although the Ramadan schedule is slightly different in the United States, she thought the University helped in making sure Ramadan at Notre Dame is an authentic religious and spiritual experience.

“The idea of Ramadan and of fasting is the religious experience of working hard and living your normal life, while still experiencing the hunger the poor feel everyday,” she said.

The only major complaint of some Muslim students during the month of Ramadan, Shafiq said, was that, on occasion, the dining halls would close before sunset, forcing students who were participating in the fast to look elsewhere for food and lose their meal points.

“Campus Ministry, especially Priscilla Wong, has been very helpful and supportive to the Muslim community here,” she said.

Though the administration has been very hospitable, the student body at large sometimes forgets about the Muslim community on campus, Shafiq said.

“The student body tends to be slightly disinterested, and sometimes the events we arrange do not get a lot of response,” she said. “But, probably because Islam has become such a part of the global community, we are starting to see a heightened level of interest in some students.”

This past Wednesday, 50 Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students participated in a solidarity fast and took part in a prayer service at the Islamic Society of Michiana’s mosque.

“It was a really great interfaith meeting,” Shafiq said. “Really, the goal of MSA is not only to provide a resource for Muslim students, but also to reach out to the Notre Dame community and explain what Islam is all about.”

MSA will continue to host and sponsor events throughout the year, including teaching students about the Islamic approach to music, art and comedy.

“We want to make sure that all students on campus have a well-rounded understanding of Muslim faith and culture,” Shafiq said. “In today’s world, where the Islamic faith is so often misunderstood, it is important to have interfaith cooperation at a place like Notre Dame.”