October 15, 2007

Students Celebrate End of Ramadan at Eid Feast

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More than 250 people gathered last night to celebrate the end of Ramadan at the 3rd annual Eid Banquet, organized by the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA). Known as Eid al-Fitr, or the Holiday of the Fast-Breaking, the event commemorates the end of the month-long observance by Muslims.
Among those attending was President David J. Skorton, who addressed the sold-out gathering and discussed his appreciation for the role the Muslim community has on campus and in Ithaca. He stressed the importance of engaging with others of different backgrounds and faith, and praised MECA for providing a forum for discussion at Cornell.
“We must learn how to engage unfamiliar cultures,” he said, “and this night represents what people of other faiths can share and honor at [this banquet] — the best of human striving.”
Skorton also acknowledged the dedication of Muslims during the month of Ramadan, and said that it represents “an enormous act of self-discipline and also focus on charity, and on your secular responsibilities.”
After a laugh, Skorton said that “was the first time I’ve ever called classes a secular responsibility.”
Abdul Chaballout ’08, one of the speakers, told the crowd of his excitement for the beginning of Ramadan and compared it to “the arrival of a guest … it helps us find ourselves through spirituality and prayer.”
The evening also included an address by Cornell’s first and newly-appointed Muslim Chaplain Omer Bajwa, who is currently completing his studies at the Hartford Seminary’s Islamic Chaplaincy Program. The Keynote Address was entitled “Eid and the Imagery of Return” and was given by Prof. Shawkat Toorawa, near eastern studies. Toorawa also served as an advisor to MECA, and his family serves as the faculty family in residence at Mews Hall.
Many non-Muslims participated in the Banquet, including Manoj Easaw ’09, who said he has “friends that are Muslim and I’ve seen them go through the whole process [of Ramadan] and I wanted to celebrate with them.”
Also attending was Mehran Nazir ’10, who enjoyed “the community feeling and especially the feeling of brotherhood [at the banquet].”
MECA President Sabrina Imam ’09 spoke of the importance of bringing together a diverse community. As president, Imam has helped promote a variety of events focusing on inter-faith dialogue including a recent break-fast with Hillel. “The process of eating together allows us to see that faith means finding that enduring human face behind our differences,” she told the crowd.
The holiday of Eid al-Fitr is one of two Eid festivals in the Islamic year, and is sometimes celebrated for three days. After fasting for a month during Ramadan, Muslims are required to eat something on Ed al-Fitr and often attend a baquet in their best clothes. The holiday also plays an important customary role as a time for reconciliation between family members and friends.