The Ramadan Banquet took place on April 1, 2023, with over 100 students attending to eat traditional Middle Eastern foods and drink traditional beverages, all catered by a nearby restaurant. The event also included a speech by an Imam (a religious figure comparable to a priest) from a local Mosque. MSA (IMSA’s Muslim Student Association) organized the entire event, and they did so with a huge vision in mind.
MSA co-president, Faizaan Shaikh, described how the banquet was born from the question: “What can we, as MSA, do to create an event that can contend with a culture show?” He further explained that “MSA is a club that’s less prominent when compared to clubs like ISA (Indian Student Association), ASIA (Asian Students in America), or BSU (Black Student Union) because they all have their own culture shows. We were trying to figure out a way where we could do something similar, but Islam doesn’t have a very prominent dance/music culture, so the banquet was our way of creating an event that expresses and teaches about Islam, while garnering a similar level of attention and popularity.”
With the first banquet garnering the attention of over a hundred students, MSA definitely got the crowd they were looking for, but they still have huge plans for the future of the Ramadan Banquet. “There are actually MSA’s running in schools near IMSA, and they are a lot larger than IMSA’s so we want to invite them over to IMSA for a Ramadan Banquet to show them how a smaller MSA might function, or to hold a banquet or another event at their school to show people that MSA is actually a lot bigger than it is at IMSA,” said Shaikh. He also mentioned MSA’s plans to garner a network of these schools “to bring together a group of people that all pride themselves over their faith.”
The banquet was also successful in teaching and educating about Islamic culture and practices, and not only through food. “I got a lot of positive feedback about the speaker, and I believe the key reason for this was that he was engaging with the audience and not just lecturing them. He was a really good speaker, and he was able to work with the audience and have audience interactions provoking the students to ask questions and consider what they actually knew about Islam.” As Shaikh summarized it, “The audience came for the food, but left with a more informed perspective on Muslims and Islam, which was our focus for the banquet.”
After the Imam spoke, there was a short prayer and a joint breaking of the fast for all attending students who were observing Ramadan before the feast. MSA works to make sure that IMSA has adequate accommodations for Ramadan each year. This usually works by allowing those observing Ramadan able to pick up water, a date (to break their fast), a hot meal, a snack, and suhoor (essentially breakfast eaten before the sun rises) from the door behind the sandwich/deli area while Lexington, IMSA’s food provider, is still open. Students can then take these foods to their rooms and eat once the sun has set and before it rises, even when Lexington is closed.
The main change they made this year was the added ability of choice, as food wasn’t prepackaged like it was in earlier years. This was also meant to help reduce the waste from excess packaging.
Students have been quite happy with these changes, including Riman Doodin (‘23) who stated “I feel IMSA did a decent job with accommodations during Ramadan, especially with the to-go meals.” Though, they also believe that there are still quite a few things Ramadan accommodations are lacking. “I wish they were more lenient with attendance as I was too tired to pay attention in class, so I appreciate the teachers who had online notes for that. I wish they had more GAs going on about what it was and how to support Muslim friends fasting,” Doodin said. She also expressed how she wished that her teachers and peers were more cognizant of Ramadan, specifically for nighttime meetings, which often forced her to break her fast almost an hour late.