Daily Illini: UI adds dining options for Ramadan observers

The University dining halls may not seem as full as before.

Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and purification, began Sept. 1 and will continue until Oct. 1. After fasting from sunup to sundown, Muslim students and faculty gather after 7 p.m. each day with friends and family to break their fast.

Muslim students are unable to eat in University dining halls because they close too early. To resolve this issue, the University has created a new policy on reimbursing uneaten meals for Muslim students on meal plans.

“I don’t really think it’s a problem because they really accommodate us,” said Sakina Tayebali, freshman in LAS. “Like one of my friends, he just goes down into the dining hall, and makes a plate and takes it up to his room.”

For students without a meal plan, Roveiza Irfan, junior in LAS, said she has chosen to eat meals with her family in Champaign-Urbana. Rabia Yaqub, junior in LAS, said she often has iftar, known as the fast-breaking meal, with her friends.

Hatim Rahman, junior in Business and board member on the Council of American Islamic Relations, said the community at the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center, 106 S. Lincoln Ave. in Urbana, prepares meals for students free of charge every night, which is convenient because it’s held after the prayer.

Individuals of Muslim faith have special dietary guidelines, including halal, which are “clean” foods; and zabeehah, a ritualistic way of slaughtering and draining blood from meat, said Sadia Bekal, Senior Research Specialist in Agriculture, who cooks meals for her family.

“I think it’s very highly needed to have more places where Muslims or even Americans would come and eat and is halal and zabeehah and is diverse,” Bekal said.

Sadia recommended Jerusalem Café and Urbana’s Garden, both Muslim-owned restaurants, as good places to eat.

Even with many dining options for Muslim students, there are still some difficulties.

Raihan Pothigara, junior in LAS, said exams sometimes make Ramadan difficult. Many exams start at 7 p.m., while the sun usually goes down around 7:10 p.m. Students taking the exam must wait until they finish to break their fast.

“You have to stay hungry,” Pothigara said.Despite the dietary restrictions, many students participate in Ramadan for personal improvement.

“Eating is not the concern,” Yaqub said. “It’s a time to keep free from carnal desires. It helps to identify with humanity.”

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