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Tuesday, May 30, 2023 — Houston, TX

Muslim students and H&D prepare for Ramadan

Katherine Hui / Thresher

By Brandon Chen     3/21/23 10:39pm

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this week, falling between March 22 to April 20 this year, overlapping with events such as Beer Bike and the end of the semester. Observers fast from dawn until dusk, which is approximately 13 hours in Houston, to practice spiritual devotedness.

Housing & Dining will continue accommodations that debuted last year, which include providing extended servery hours for students needing to break their fast and halal options, according to H&D. Summer Shabana, co-president of the Muslim Student Association, said the ongoing conversations between H&D and the MSA allowed these accommodations to continue to expand. 

Since many students expressed interest in opting out of the meal plan because they were fasting, there was an interest for both H&D and MSA to create accommodations with extended hours, Shabana said. This year, iftar, the meal to break fast, will be available at West Servery from 7:45 to 8:30 p.m., and suhoor, eaten at dawn, will be available for pick up as well. 

“Chef Kyle was especially interested in providing food for us that was representative of our cultures, so it was really nice because people felt at home,” Shabana said. 

For many first year students, like Ayaan Riaz, a freshman at Will Rice, this Ramadan will be the first away from home. Riaz said he is happy to see Rice accommodating the needs of the few hundred students who observe Ramadan.

“There’s a lot of anxiety around it now because I’m so far away from home,” Riaz said. “I don’t have my mom’s cooking, the schedule is so much more busy, so it’s like there’s a lot of new variables I have to take into account.”

While last year’s take-home suhoor options were limited, this year’s menu includes expanded protein options, according to Shabana.

Will Rice President Gazi Fuad said access to food options throughout the night is something he is trying to budget for. Other colleges also plan to stock communal kitchens with food for those fasting.

The MSA also presented to the Student Association and Faculty Senate about what the observance of Ramadan would mean for Muslim students, including possible accommodations faculty could make for students. Bridget Gorman, dean of undergraduates, said the presentation was received well at Faculty Senate, and that most instructors try to support students observing religious holidays.

“During my time at Rice, I’ve noticed more conversations about accommodations in general, including for religious reasons,” Gorman said. “I think there’s increased recognition that the circumstances students manage as it relates to their ability to successfully navigate and complete their academic obligations can vary for a lot of reasons.”

While administration has made significant strides in accommodating religious celebrations, Ambreen Younas, co-president of the MSA, still feels like there is work to be done.

“I think year after year, [seeking accommodations] keeps falling on us,” Younas said. “And then the response we get is, ‘Oh, we can’t really do anything now, but maybe in the future,’ but then no one really takes initiative in the future to remember us or keep us in mind. And always, I feel like a lot of … Muslim student needs come as an afterthought in a lot of areas of the Rice experience.”

As the student population has grown, the MSA continues to grow with it. The association is hosting many events throughout the month, including a Ramadan Gala, MSA x BSA x HACER H&D Appreciation Day, Ask a Muslim and a Fast-a-thon which Shabana and Younas encourage everyone to attend as they aim to foster a community for Muslim students at Rice.

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