College life is not always Ramadan-friendly. Some schools want to change that

“We have administrators and faculty and staff who are listening now,” he said “Of course, there is a pressure for DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] And inclusive and important. “

This year marks the first time in more than a decade that the traditional school year has fallen into the Ramadan square and that school year has not been disrupted by the epidemic.

Schools are taking on themselves to make a difference in Ramadan

In previous years, USC students were able to bring extra meals from their evening meal home for breakfast.

This year, with increasing demand, the university has started offering Suhoor two-go boxes packed with breakfast, fruit, yogurt and juice instead of last night’s dinner.

“Really, there was really no debate about whether we should give something or not,” said Lindsay Pine, a dietitian at USC Dining Hall. “We just knew it was something that needed to be done.”

The students keep the contents of the Suhur box for Ramadan.
Rafiq said of Ramadan fasting, “I think if you see that it is becoming really difficult not to eat or drink all day, then it will be.” “But if you see it as an opportunity to practice control and self-discipline, you’ll be fine.” This Ramadan, she is enjoying a breakfast entry, packed with fruit, yogurt and juice at USC’s Suhur To Go Box. (Roxanne Turpen for NPR)

He said the USC plans to continue providing annual Ramadan accommodation as long as dining halls remain open and Muslim students plan school meals.

Northeastern University offers Ramadan breakfast boxes, as well as a shuttle service to a nearby mosque for evening prayers, and twice a week iftar. And Utah State University is offering free hot, halal evening meals twice a week, in addition to what they offered in previous years. At Emerson College, a dining hall has a halal station where meals for Iftar as well as takeaway bags for Sahur are provided. For the first time this year, a Muslim cleric has been identified as a staff member at the school.

Omar Mozaffar, a Muslim cleric at Loyola University Chicago, is working with the university to arrange meals for students in residential halls and to facilitate Iftar, some of which will be sponsored by the school.

“We actually started preparations two years ago,” Mozaffar said. “Then Covid hits.”

For the first time this year since the epidemic began, Loyola students will be fasting on campus. Boxes of dates, usually eaten to break the fast, are piled high in Mozaffar’s office. He said it was a gift from the university to be handed over to Muslim students.

The Muslim chaplain of the university has a box of dates in his hand
Omar Mozaffar, a Muslim cleric at Loyola University in Chicago, has a box of dates in his office. Dates are usually eaten to break the fast in Ramadan. (Olivia Obineme for NPR)

“Historically, the university has been very open and welcoming about Islam,” he explained. “Students are ready to send a note to the Dean Faculty informing them that there will be fasting and Eid prayers. [marking the end of Ramadan] Will be held later. “

HBCUs have been doing this for years

Efforts to include Muslims are not entirely new on American college campuses – especially at HBCU.

“Many Muslim students who have historically attended black colleges and universities feel better supported and employed than their counterparts in predominantly white institutions,” said Darnell Cole of the USC’s Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice.

Cole studies the race and how it affects the experience of college students, including Muslim students at HBCU – students who, Cole said, are not always black.

Sana Hamen heads the Muslim Students Association at Howard University, which has been offering Sahoor and Iftar dining hall meals since 2017. He noticed a trend among Palestinian and Bengali students who had moved to Howard from predominantly white institutions: they told him they felt more involved at Howard.

“They came to Howard, and they said, ‘Oh, everyone is very welcome. They want to be your friend, they want to network, they just want to come out and do something,'” he says.

In other schools, students are taking the lead in responsibility

Over the years, Muslim student organizations have been working for better inclusion on campus.

“MSAs are designed to support Muslim students in their practice on college campuses. And Ramadan is, I think, a central part of it,” said Bushra Bangi of the Muslim Students’ Association West, which oversees MSAs on the West Coast.

More recently, these efforts have spread to Greek life. Zara Khan is the Vice President of the Mu Delta Alpha Chapter of the Muslim Society at the University of Texas at Austin.

In the month of Ramadan the spiritual night of his society is organized, a practice they started in 2021 to help nurture a communal consciousness in the holy month.

Rafiq usually eats suhur khan, the sunrise meal that begins the daily fast, around 4:50 am “We literally eat when it’s dark. We have to stop when we see the Prothom-alo,” he said. (Roxanne Turpen for NPR)

“We will come together and discuss a relevant topic related to Ramadan, something about fasting or charity work or the key elements of what you think should be improved during Ramadan,” he explains.

Khan’s sorority is partnering with Alpha Lambda Mu, the country’s first Muslim community, to host an iftar at a student-run mosque in UT Austin.

Why colleges are starting to do it now

Bangi blames the past two years for the rise of campus inclusion efforts, including the response to George Floyd’s assassination and the national dialogue surrounding racial justice.

“When it comes to supporting students in administration, you know, with the BLM neighborhood last year, I think it really opened the door to a conversation around DEI in general,” he says.

Sociologist Iman Abdelhadi is studying Muslim-American experience at the University of Chicago. He blamed a number of factors, including the Muslim Advocacy Organization formed after 9/11 and what he called the “Trump Effect”, for improving Muslim inclusion efforts.

“He has targeted Muslims in such an important part of his campaign,” he explained. “And it has in some ways improved their position within a liberal coalition of Trump opponents.”

Omar Mozaffar addresses students at Loyola University’s Chicago Campus Mosque. (Olivia Obineme for NPR)

At USC, Shafiqa Ahmadi credits the Muslim women who won the title on the college campus.

“It’s a symbol that automatically identifies them as Muslims, and they often face prejudice and hatred,” he explains.

Ahmadi says these women have pushed to stay on the college campus, and that has made a difference.

Something different for each sehri

Back at USC, Talha Rafiq has gone through several Suhur boxes since the start of Ramadan. The to-go box menu includes frittas, bagels and cream cheese and French toast.

“I find some variation with what I eat,” he says.

It’s not like her mom’s home cooking, but it’s better than her daily eggs.

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