October 23, 2006

Muslim Organization Sponsors Fast

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Would you go hungry for a day so someone else wouldn’t? With open hearts and empty stomachs, Cornellians showcased both their willpower and generosity at the 2006 Fast-a-thon hosted by the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA).

Participants fasted from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, refraining from both food and water. The one day fast for non-Muslims participants provided a taste of what it was like to fast for the entire month of Ramadan.

“It’s about character building, being compassionate and kind towards others and appreciating those who are going hungry,” said Omer Sheikh grad, who participated in the fast.

Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, is based upon the lunar calendar and began this year on Sept. 23 and concluded yesterday. Although fasting is most commonly associated with Ramadan, other aspects are just as important, including purity of thought, controlled behavior and sacrifice and charity towards the less fortunate.

Fast-a-thon 2006, the first-ever organized by MECA, was developed based on the model used by Muslim student associations at other universities, while catering to the needs of the Cornell community.

“The cross-cultural aspect is impressive,” said Sun columnist Jeff Purcell grad, who participated in the fast.
Indeed, the cross-cultural aspect was an integral part of the event. The Fast-a-thon had two primary purposes: to raise money for charity and to bring an understanding of a different people with hopes of promoting peace and unity on campus, according to Ahmed Abdelwahab ’09, outreach coordinator of MECA and the main coordinator of the fast-a-thon.

“The strong non-Muslim turnout was key to the event. It showed the community’s willingness to understand its different groups of people, and its desire for peace,” said Abdelwahab.

“It was great that so many different groups of people from Cornell came in this show of solidarity,” said participant Steve Kurz ’07.

Fast-a-thon 2006 was co-sponsored by campus organizations such as the Americans for Informed Democracy, Amnesty International and the Cornell Democrats.

“Putting yourself in their shoes — it’s the best way to learn,” said Julie Mao ’08, representing the Americans for Informed Democracy.
More than $800 was raised, with contributions still coming in, according to Shaan Rizvi ’07, president of MECA. The donations will go toward UNICEF’s effort to rebuild Lebanon, which has become an immediate priority after the nation’s war with Israel this past summer.

Overall, the event was a success in raising money and in tearing down barriers between the Muslim community and campus.

“We will definitely hold the event next year, and next year’s event will be both bigger and better,” said Rizvi.