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Campus partnerships help the U of T Scarborough community experience Ramadan

Ramadan is more than a month-long fast for Muslims—it’s an annual observance centered around community and charitable work.

This Ramadan, U of T Scarborough put forth new initiatives, including a collaboration between the Student Housing & Residence Life Office and the Muslim Students’ Association. Osman Haybe, a third-year student studying Neuroscience, is the president of the Muslim Students’ Association and has dedicated much of his time to strengthening the campus community for both Muslim and non-Muslim students, staff and faculty. “The MSA is welcoming of everyone. We all want to have a space, and if someone feels that MSA can be their space, they’re more than welcome to join us,” says Haybe.

Those taking part in Ramadan begin fasting at sunrise and break their fast at sunset over a meal called an iftar, occurring after the call to evening prayer. The MSA hosts iftar meals on campus from Monday to Saturday and has partnered with Student Housing & Residence Life to host Sunday iftars in the Residence Centre.

The focus of the iftar is to come together, celebrate and communicate. For international summer students, Ramadan can be a difficult time—many are fasting throughout the day away from home and in a city that doesn’t accommodate Ramadan in the traditional manner. In many Muslim cities around the world, businesses often remain open through the night, allowing those practicing Ramadan to sleep during the fasting hours, but this isn’t the case in Toronto. With iftars hosted on campus, Muslim students can break their fast in a social space as the tradition intended, with non-Muslim students welcome to share in the tradition.

The iftars held in the Residence Centre have been comprised of a nearly equal split of Muslim and non-Muslim students.

“These dinners have really helped foster a sense of community among our students,” says Rebekkah Nighswander, residence life coordinator. Nighswander is thrilled to see how many non-Muslim students are experiencing iftar dinners, learning about Ramadan and enjoying the atmosphere of the residence community on campus.

Nighswander has received positive feedback from students attending the iftar. Muslim students are happy to have a space to share with the campus community and appreciate that the Student Housing & Residence Life Office is developing strong programming to support U of T Scarborough’s diverse student body and their observances. Included in this programming is an evening to mark the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, in a celebration on Monday, June 26 from 4-7 p.m. in the Residence Centre.

First-year student, Amal Shirazi, lives in residence and attended each weekly iftar in the Residence Centre. “It’s a good way to bring people together and in iftar you’re supposed to bring communities together. The entire idea is a great initiative,” she says.

With a diverse population, U of T Scarborough aims to build a strong sense of community throughout the campus, particularly during times of observance. “My main goal for Sunday iftars was to make people understand there are allies in our community,” says Nighswander.

U of T Scarborough’s Campus Community Police are also involved in Ramadan and are a driving force in creating a sense community on campus. Staff Sergeant, Shahid Zafar, noted Campus Community Police are involved in many community building initiatives in addition to lending support to the MSA during Ramadan—from charity sporting events and sports leagues, their Coffee with a Cop program, to staff and faculty events. Zafar believes Campus Community Police share the same community building values as Ramadan.

“Ramadan advocates for peace, it advocates for community partnerships, it advocates for friendships, it advocates for not making people feel isolated or alone,” he says.

On Tuesday, June 20 at 8 p.m., the U of T Scarborough community is welcome to attend The Grand Iftar in the Meeting Place. Organized by the MSA, the celebration will include guest speakers, including U of T Scarborough's Imam Omar Patel, and a traditional meal. The event has a charitable focus and attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about charitable work during Ramadan.

“Islam means to be charitable, it means to be a good person. If I’m representing a Muslim student organization, I should embody those values, which should make me a better person and allow the organization to help others become better people. That’s the way I see it,” says Haybe.




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