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Muslim Chaplain Ensures Students Celebrating Ramadan Have Dining Options

Giulianna Larson | The PhoenixLoyola's Muslim chaplain has been working with campus dining services to provide accommodations for Muslim students as they prepare to fast for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Loyola’s Muslim Chaplain is working with the university’s dining halls to implement meal accommodations for Muslim students who are celebrating Ramadan from April 2 to May 2. 

For Muslim students celebrating Ramadan, an Islamic holy month, their routines are about to change. Their days will soon consist of a daily fast from sunrise to sundown and extended prayers at night in addition to their five daily prayers. 

The end of Ramadan prompts the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, the feast that ends the month of fasting.

Loyola’s Muslim Chaplain Omer Mozaffar said how Ramadan is essentially the annual Muslim “boot camp.” 

“It is both very deeply personal as well as collective,” Mozaffar told The Phoenix. “It focuses on your relationship with God as well as connecting with others who are fasting.”

Mozaffar partnered with Aramark, Loyola’s dining hall food provider, to make food packages available to Muslim students participating in the daily fast during Ramadan.

Aramark didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

Mahek Ibrahim, sister’s advisor of Loyola’s Muslim Student Association (MSA), said this is the first time since since the pandemic started that Loyola classes will be in full swing during Ramadan. 

With the sun setting around 7:30 p.m. in Chicago and most dining halls closing between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., some Muslim students are left with limited options when it comes to finding a meal after the daily fast is broken.

Damen Dining Hall is open on Monday through Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Simpson Dining Hall is open on Monday through Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and De Nobili Dining Hall is open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., closing at 8:00 p.m. on Fridays, according to Campus Dish, a website where students can see dining hall hours of operation as well as the menu for that day. 

Although there are other options such as the Damen Food Court, which is open until midnight, students who rely on Loyola’s dining halls as their main source of food should make use of the food packages provided by Aramark, Mozaffar said. 

Halimeh Khan, a first-year studying computer science, said she has heard many students questioning their food options.

“For a lot of students this is the first time they are actually on campus breaking their fast so a lot of students are trying to figure out what they should do,” Khan, 19, told The Phoenix.  “I know some students are trying to make sure they have their own snacks in their dorm but sometimes that is not enough and you need a full meal.”

Mozaffar began working to establish alternative food options for Muslim students celebrating Ramadan in Febuary 2020. 

In an attempt to provide Muslim students with the necessary resources to participate in Ramadan, Mozaffar told The Phoenix he met with a representative from Aramark Food Services and provided survey data regarding how many people would use the accommodations. 

Mozaffar said Aramark agreed to provide food packages in February 2020, but there was no longer a need for accommodations when students were sent home the next month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now in March 2022, Mozaffar worked to make this accommodation an option for students again for the upcoming celebration of Ramadan.

A survey was sent out to all students who identify as Muslim. Out of the 253 students who participated, 41 students asked for food packages to be an accommodation, Mozaffar said. 

Mozaffar met with a representative from Aramark on March 24 and said the company agreed to send boxes for students to fill with food during dining hall hours to eat after their fast. Students can dine at Damen and Simpson Dining Halls each morning before their fast starts, he told The Phoenix. 

“We organized a system in which Residence Hall residents will be able to get food for beginning and ending the fasts pretty easily,” Mozaffar told The Phoenix. 

Neema Salim, a first-year studying biology, said she doesn’t have any food in her dorm and appreciates any accommodation allowing her to eat before and after her daily fast. 

Salim, 18, also explained before the fast, she will eat around 5:30 a.m. and feels packaged food would be beneficial to herself and fellow Muslim students. 

Salim was joined by junior Rida Mansoor in support of food accommodations such as packaged to-go meals. 

“I think it would be helpful as packaged food would be easier for students to save for later,” Mansoor, 21, told The Phoenix. 

In addition to making dining services accessible to Muslim students, MSA is planning events alongside Chaplain Mozaffar from Campus Ministry to give students a place to break their fast. 

“We have a couple of events we are hoping to have small little things in Campus Ministry to break our fast together and go into our prayer hall upstairs in Damen and pray together,” Ibrahim, sister’s advisor of MSA, said. 

During the month of Ramadan, Ibrahim aims to bring Muslim students together and establish a community. 

“I think being together with people will make Ramadan on campus, especially people who are away from their families, a little better and more inclusive,” she told The Phoenix.

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