Muslims on campus, allies finish day’s fast for charity

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Students, faculty members and Austinites gathered around tables in the McCombs School of Business atrium on Tuesday, silently listening to the call to prayer, an operatic-style hymn that signified the end of their sunrise-to-sunset fast.

The UT Muslim Students Association provided dinner for about 350 pledges at the ninth annual celebration, which concluded Fast-A-Thon.

MSA is a religious-based organization that focuses on fellowship, the education about Islam and the promotion of a positive Muslim image.

MSA spokeswoman Nazia Hussain said one of the main focuses of the club is the portrayal of Muslims in the media and combating the negative images of Islamic people.

“We want to put Islam in a good light and show that we are more than what’s seen on TV,” said Hussain, an anthroplogy junior. “We are people who are involved and give back to the community,” she said.

Proceeds from Fast-A-Thon donations and an iPod raffle totaling about $600 were donated to Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, where Asif Ansari, a finance senior and MSA president, said the club has held several service projects.

“This is our ninth year working with them on this project, but we’ve held quite a few volunteer projects there,” Ansari said. “We enjoy giving back to them because they are fighting hunger in Austin, and we believe in what they are doing.”

Initially Fast-A-Thon was held during the holy month of Ramadan, during which fasting is a sacred ritual. But in an effort to focus the event on hunger awareness, MSA changed the month of the event, Ansari said.

Fast-A-Thon symbolizes the fight for local and world hunger relief by raising money and sharing a tiny piece of the experience.

“We are building a small connection between ourselves and the people who are hungry by going without food because, for a day, we experience what they feel everyday,” Ansari said.

The Capital Area Food Bank, which supports 21 counties in Central Texas, is a 29-year-old organization dedicated to supporting anti-hunger legislation and rallying the community around hunger prevention.

CAFB representative Sarah Woodward said one in every five Austin families go hungry, and many of the people they help feed are not as homeless as most people might think.

“Today, you made a choice to fast, but 48,000 people we serve don’t have the choice to break that fast,” she said.

Marine biology senior Sarah Guermond said the hardest part of her fast was watching other people eat knowing that she could not.

“I was surrounded by people eating lunch and I was so hungry, but I knew I couldn’t have it,” she said. “Realizing this is what other people go through really put things in perspective.”