VIEWPOINT: Reflecting during Ramadan

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By Shazeen Harunani and Lillian Figg-Franzoi

Special to the Tribune

You might notice that some of your classmates are tired today and won’t join you for lunch.They will probably eat dinner a few hours after you, after all the dining halls except McCormick are closed.

They are participating in fasting during the month of Ramadan, an annual practice for many Muslims across the world.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and a time when Muslims focus on self-reflection and try to increase their closeness to Allah, or God. Muslims around the world abstain from food, water, sexual activity and other physical needs during the daylight hours.

The fasting encourages Muslims to re-evaluate their lives and allows for a cleansing of the body, mind and spirit. It helps in spiritual purification and in the development of self-discipline. It deepens faith by lessening one’s dependence on material objects. Not only does Ramadan encourage a deepened spirituality, but it also encourages one to experience a way of life unfamiliar to many.

Millions of people around the world cannot afford to eat more than one or two meals a day and the fasting of Ramadan helps many Muslims develop empathy for those in need, who starve not by choice but because they do not have access to healthy food and clean water. Not only is Ramadan a time for spiritual fasting, but also a time to reflect upon social justice and encourage the empathetic unity of humanity.

This Ramadan, the Muslim Student Association is focusing on putting that empathy further into action and helping the refugees of the violence in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

According to the Islamic Relief USA Web site (islamicreliefusa.org), more than 2.86 million Pakistanis were displaced as a result of internal violence beginning in April of 2009 and continuing into July.

While approximately half of the refugees have by this point returned home, they do not have sufficient funds to rebuild their homes and lives. More than 73 percent of Pakistanis live on $2 or less per day, less than the cost of one meal here in Milwaukee.

What the Muslim Student Association is asking you to do is pledge to contribute at least what you would normally spend on food during the course of one day, and donate it to helping Islamic Relief rebuild lives in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

On September 10, we will be having our annual Fast-a-thon, sponsored by the Muslim Student Association, the Diversity Commission, the Office of International Education and Campus Ministry.

During this time, we encourage you to fast along with us to understand what your classmates, coworkers and friends are participating in, but also in solidarity with those starving and displaced in Pakistan.

This is a combination event in order both to understand a faith practiced by one-sixth of the world’s population and to participate in a social justice movement.

We will have a discussion on fasting of many kinds in various traditions during the day, and the opportunity to observe a Muslim congregational prayer and to break your fast and eat dinner in the evening while learning about the current situation with refugees in Pakistan.

Please e-mail muslimstudents.mu@gmail.com for more information, or stop by the Alumni Memorial Union between 11 a.m and 2 p.m. to sign up and get more information.

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