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Sundown means chow down at MSA fundraiser

Students arriving at the Campus Recreation Center’s upper gym Thursday were ready to break fast at a party where coming hungry, spreading culture and giving to charity went hand in hand.

The Muslim Student Association’s annual Fast-A-Thon fundraiser featured live music, free food, a sign language performance and speeches about the essence of Ramadan, a month-long Muslim observance in which followers abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sundown.

Nearly 200 Muslim and non-Muslim students mixed at the event, which was sponsored by restaurants and businesses from the community and raised money for local charities.

“Muslim and non-Muslim students alike were able to come together,” said Yasmin Khaleel, a junior majoring in political science and MSA member. “We really want to teach about the religion and why we fast.”

The event was designed mostly for non-Muslim students to take part in the religious holiday, said Shireen Hijaz, the vice president of MSA.

“It’s a holy month and we want to share it with everyone,” Hijaz said. “During Ramadan we are all equal, so by fundraising we can give back to people.”

MSA promoted their celebration through Facebook, fliers and word of mouth.

At the door, each student signed a pledge that they had fasted all day. Local sponsors agreed to give a donation for each non-Muslim student who participated. By the party’s end, about $2,400 was raised, Hijaz said.

Nelson Yuen was one of the non-Muslim students who attended the event.

“The Fast-A-Thon is a good way to educate people on the Islamic culture. I don’t think they’re aware of how diverse it is,” said Yuen, a finance senior.

Muslims at the event still have about a week of fasting ahead. Ramadan continues until Oct. 12.

All the money raised will be split evenly between Project Downtown, a charity that aids the homeless, and the Family Justice Center, a group dedicated to helping battered women, Hijaz said.

“The donated money means a lot to us because we could always use the help,” said Sana Lateef, president of Project Downtown. “We really appreciate all the money we are getting. It helps us feed, clothe, and provide one simple meal to the homeless.”

Reporting from Jaclyn DeVore contributed to this report. Anna Peters can be reached at (813) 974- 6299 or