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Dining halls add options for MU students observing Ramadan

Wednesday, September 2, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Phil Klopfenstein, an MU student currently observing the Islamic holiday Ramadan, picks up a few breakfast items at the Emporium at MU on Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. In accordance with Ramadan tradition, Muslims are only allowed to eat before sunrise and after sunset.

COLUMBIA — Campus Dining Services at MU has made adjustments to its services during Ramadan, a monthlong fast observed by Muslims from sunrise to sunset, to better accommodate university students.

Because students who are observing the fast sometimes abstain from eating and avoid using their meal points during daylight hours, many points go unused. This year is the first time Campus Dining Services has offered breakfast foods that can be purchased when dining facilities aren't open. The change was spurred by Muslim students looking for alternatives during Ramadan.

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Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The other foundations of the faith include prayers, charity and making the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. The month ends with the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr.

"It’s encouraging," said Nabihah Maqbool, the public relations chair of the Muslim Student Organization at MU. "I hope they are able to expand their menu in the future."

Talks between the Muslim Student Organization and Campus Dining Services started last year. Moeena Mian, a junior at MU who recently ended a term as secretary of the student organization, was involved in the negotiations.

"This has been a very long process," Mian said. "We talked about every type of option, but this is the one that was doable."

Muslim students can purchase breakfast food for the following day because the dining halls will not be open before the daily fast begins. Often Muslims will eat during the early morning hours before sunrise.

Emporium, one of the dining facilities on campus, offers an alternative to the traditional dining hall option. Students can use their meal plans to purchase food to take with them outside of the dining facility.

Emporium stocks multiple food options including "home meal replacements" such as hamburgers, but during Ramadan breakfast items such as small stacks of pancakes and turkey sausage also will be offered. Once purchased, these meals can be stored in a refrigerator and reheated when students wish to consume them, said Andrew Lough, marketing manager for Campus Dining Services.

"We are very thankful that they listened to our requests and really want to continue this next year," Mian said.

Columbia College and Stephens College do not have similar programs for the month of Ramadan.

The dining service at MU also offers food options for those students who choose to observe Passover and Lent.

The earliest time dining halls open is 7 a.m., which is after sunrise throughout the entire month of Ramadan.

"We had to make some adjustments for the pre-sunrise hours," Lough said. The adjustment was to sell breakfast foods at Emporium.

The last dining facilities close at 11 p.m. However, eating at the dining halls after sunset can still be difficult because some Muslims choose to participate in extra nightly prayers during Ramadan.

Phil Klopfenstein, 19, secretary of the Muslim Student Organization and an MU sophomore, gets up at about 4:30 a.m. to make breakfast each day in his dorm room.

He fasted last year during Ramadan to learn more about Islam.

"I realized that I didn't know much about the religion, next to the things you get like on the TV and the news," Klopfenstein said. "I was a little more lazy and didn't wake up until 6 a.m. and still had breakfast."

Klopfenstein has been practicing Islam full time for four months. He made his declaration of faith, the "shahaadah," last month.

He occasionally wears a white "kufi," a small round cap, to identify himself with his faith. It is a practice he picked up while spending his summer teaching English and math in Ghana.

Klopfenstein, also known by his Muslim name Khalil Abdul-Mumin, uses Emporium to stock up on basics such as soy milk and yogurt. He chose to start the school year with only seven meals a week on his meal plan and may increase his plan once the month of Ramadan is over.

"Since I just can’t go into the dining halls to get a quick dinner, I have to either cook or go to the mosque and it takes more time," Klopfenstein said.

Many times he will cook beans and rice with vegetables because he is a vegetarian.

"For me I don’t have trouble finding the right food. Many people do, though, that can have more meat," Klopfenstein said.

Meat that is prepared according to Islamic law is harder to find on campus. Campus Eastern Foods, next to the mosque, and World Harvest International and Gourmet Foods are two of the places in town that offer foods that adhere to Islamic law.

Ramadan is not all about fasting. It is also time for community.

"It’s a time to reflect on how much we've been blessed and a time to give out of what we have been given," Klopfenstein said.

 


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