The Muslim Student Association at NJIT worked with Associate Director for Student Diversity and Inclusion Chris Won to help make the transition into Ramadan on campus as smooth as possible for Muslim students, said Nadien Attili, fourth-year civil engineering major and president of the association.
On March 15, students received an email from Won about signing up for pre-packaged Halal meals through Gourmet Dining Services. Students who do not have meal plans will be charged $13.15 for each meal requested, and students with plans can use their meal swipes to ‘purchase’ the Halal meals. Students have until Friday, March 24 to fill out the form for the dining services.
“Muslims break their fasts at sunset, which occurs during 6 p.m. classes,” Attili said. “To-go meals allow students to break their fasts after 9 p.m.”
This year, Ramadan began on March 22 and will last until April 21. It’s always during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims focus on fasting, praying, and improving themselves during this holy month. If able to fast, Muslims do not consume food or drinks from dawn until dusk daily; exceptions include people with medical conditions, pregnant individuals, young children, the elderly, and travelers.
Ramadan commemorates the month in which “Muhammad received the initial revelations of what became the Quran, the holy book for Muslims, from God,” according to History.com. It also states that “fasting is seen as a way to cleanse the soul and have empathy for those in the world who are hungry and less fortunate.”
In previous years, NJIT sent emails to instructors reminding them about the holy month in case they had students observing the religious practices.
“I had facilitated Ramadan resource development and strategic communications at previous positions prior to joining NJIT,” Won explained. “Here at NJIT, I was made aware of previous years’ efforts to support student well-being and success during Ramadan — such as email reminders being sent to instructors — and I wanted to identify additional areas where we can support the NJIT Muslim community.”
This year, Won added more to the emails sent to both the instructor and student communities on campus. Now, it includes a website with the history of Ramadan, methods that instructors can use to support students who observe the month, the pre-packaged meals registration form link, the Muslim Student Association’s contact email, NJIT Diversity and Inclusion resources, and information about daily evening Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan.
Taraweeh is a prayer held in congregation after the fifth obligatory prayer of the day during Ramadan. “It is held and performed by Muslims on all 30 nights of Ramadan in essentially all mosques around the world,” Attili said. “This year, we will be holding the prayer in Campus Center Room B35 four days a week for the whole month.” Campus Center will have extended open hours to 11 p.m. to make this late-night congregation possible.
The initiative of prividing meals is a joint effort among many groups on campus: the Office of Student Life, the Muslim Student Association, the Dean of Students Office, the Provost Office, Strategic Events and Conference Services, Gourmet Dining Services, and the Office of Inclusive Excellence, which includes Student Diversity & Inclusion and the Murray Center for Women in Technology.
Won indicated that he would like to learn more about how NJIT can integrate identity-based support systems into sustainable policies and practices. He mentioned Dr. David Jones, NJIT’s Chief Diversity Officer, who recently referenced Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy at the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging University Forum.
“The pedagogy, coined by authors Django Paris and H. Samy Alim, builds upon decades of strength-based practices and promotes students’ cultures as being central to the curriculum and learning experience — and not just as ‘add-ons,'” Won said. “In a culturally sustaining model, schools are accountable to the community.”
“The Muslim Student Association is grateful to be a part of an inclusive university that goes above and beyond to make its students feel accepted and welcomed,” Attili expressed. “We hope that this initiative strengthens the bonds within our Muslim community and helps Muslim students observe Ramadan with ease and comfort on campus.”
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