November 18, 2002

C.U. Dining Observes Ramadan

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During the month-long Muslim holiday of Ramadan, Cornell Dining is reaching out to Muslim students at Cornell by catering meals for students observing day-long fasts.

The Kosher Dining Hall (KDH) — operated by Flik Independent Schools by Chartwells and led by Dave Innerst — joined with the Ramadan Steering Committee, Cornell United Religious Work, and other campus groups last year to cater meals during the month-long observation of Ramadan. They are working together now for the second year to provide traditional Iftaar meals in accordance with halal dietary standards as a forum for multicultural awareness and exchange.

“This project is going to make everything multicultural,” Innerst said.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, which runs from November 6 through December 5 this year.

During this month it is believed the Holy Quran was sent down from heaven to guide Muslims and bring them salvation. Muslims must refrain from smoking, drinking, sexual intercourse and enemas during the entire month. Each day, they may not eat from sunup to sundown but celebrate with a large meal after the sun sets. It is a time of worship and reflection.

Reza Samad ’03, the Ramadan Project coordinator, and Shaffique Adam grad, chair of the Ramadan Steering Committee, began the Ramadan Iftaar Project last year with a group of both Muslim and non-Muslim members of the Cornell community. Shaffique said he was trying to create a similar program at Cornell to one he had helped to implement at Stanford as an undergraduate.

The idea sprung from the difficult period after Sept. 11 as a solution to improve solidarity across campus and to build bridges and understanding between cultures.

Samad ’03 said is enthusiastic about the new tradition Cornell Dining has started.

“It’s great to see that Cornell is giving greater recognition to its Muslim students. Without their help we would not have been able to put together these dinners.”

This month during Ramadan, Samad is assisting Cornell in providing food and discussion for the Muslim community and anyone else who chooses to participate in this multicultural event.

aMy part this year was largely analyzing and correcting any problems from last year, as the project board and I worked with Cornell Dining to repeat Shaffique’s efforts,” Samad said.

“I am pleased to say that the sense of ‘community’ among Muslims on campus has grown tremendously. The month of Ramadan and these communal dinners have facilitated in the understanding of our differing religious and cultural perspectives. I also feel that as a result of this project and other recent efforts, the Muslim community has become a greater voice in the Cornell community,” he added.

The program begins daily as Muslims break the fast at sunset, which is then followed by the fourth prayer of the day. They then sit down for dinner and discussion. Muslims are supposed to pray 5 times a day, which religious Muslims follow more strictly than the less religious.

“There’s constant debate and discussion,” said Umair Khan ’03, a Muslim student and a member of Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA). “People sit and eat and talk and joke… . “

Colleen Wright-Riva, director of dining, and Prof. Joe Regenstein ’65 and ’66, food science, were instrumental in involving Cornell Dining with the Muslim community.

Regenstein explained that Cornell’s Kosher food is prepared following the standards Halal dietary laws dictate, as the regulations of Judaism and Islam require very similar preparation. As in Judaism, Muslim law completely bans the pig from meals. Additionally, according to Muslim law, all animals must be slaughtered by a person of the book, preferably a Muslim, but also including Jews and Christians. The slaughter of animals is identical for kosher and halal regulations, and a prayer must be said over each animal.

Both Regenstein and Wright-Riva stressed the fact that the KDH is open to the greater, multicultural community. “We set up the MC-KDH to be available to Muslims and many others at all times,” Regenstein said.

“Certainly we continue to work with our Jewish students and Muslim students on how we can make it more multi-cultural.” Wright-Riva said.

“Along with meeting kosher dining requirements, this program also accommodates halal, vegetarian, vegan, Seventh Day Adventist, and other special diets,” according to the Kosher section of the Cornell Dining website.

“We are a part of Cornell Dining … we don’t turn anybody away from here,” said Innerst. He said he is excited for the changes coming in the near future, including a transformation of the kosher options section in Trillium with a “New York deli-type look.”

To conclude the observation of Ramadan, an Iftaar banquet will be held on Wednesday, November 20 in Trillium dining hall. It will feature guest lecturers and is open to the entire Cornell community.

Archived article by Stephanie Baritz