Fast-A-Thon seeks to challenge students

Students pray before the Fast-A-Thon dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 1 in the Wool Ballrooms. (Curtis Wang / Multimedia Director)

Students pray before the Fast-A-Thon dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 1 in the Wool Ballrooms. (Curtis Wang / Multimedia Director)

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Students pray before the Fast-A-Thon dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 1 in the Wool Ballrooms. (Curtis Wang / Multimedia Director)

It is an unusual thing for more than 400 Saint Louis University students to go an entire day without eating, but when it is in the name of charity, education and unity, some SLU students said they are more than willing. Fast-A-Thon, which took place on Nov. 1 this year, is a national event held by the Muslim Students Association. According to the national MSA website, about 250 campuses participated this year, including SLU.

The event is held annually on SLU’s campus by MSA in an effort to invite non-Muslim students to share in the experience of what fasting is like in the religious month of Ramadan. Additionally, Fast-A-Thon serves as a charity fundraising event to assist East African famine victims.

Participants in Fast-A-Thon fast the entire day and then are treated to a free dinner to end the event. “Fast-A-Thon provides students with a challenge that they don’t see everyday,” Bilal Mahmood, Co-President of MSA, said. “It bring a diversity and educates students in a way they won’t find in the classroom.”

Though Fast-A-Thon occurs annually, the event underwent several changes this year, the most notable being the lack of a keynote speaker at the dinner. “We had a lukewarm response to the speaker last year,”  Mohammad Zahid, co-chair of religious affairs, said. “It wasn’t all that engaging. We wanted to be informative and give students and informed understanding of Islam.”

In lieu of a speaker this year, MSA instead wrote and filmed skits designed to do the teaching. The skits were shown at the dinner and will later be posted on YouTube. Additionally, the date of Fast-A-Thon was pushed back further from the month of Ramadan, to the concern of some SLU students. “We got a lot of emails from students asking if we were still holding Fast-A-Thon this year,” Mahmood said. “It’s a tradition that means a lot to the campus.”

The event also used a different caterer this year, which MSA said provided some hurdles because of the dietary restrictions that accompany Islamic tradition. MSA had to provide their own halal meat to the caterers, but the dinner itself was a success, according to Mahmood.

Though the event itself is one day, MSA said it puts a only lot of planning into Fast-A-Thon. For two weeks prior, the group tabled in the Busch Student Center to raise awareness and to sell t-shirts and wrist bands to raise money for the charity. “Fast-A-Thon encapsulates the two roles of MSA,” Zahid said. “It helps Islamic students connect with other Islamic students on campus and also educates students about Islam.”

Zahid said that the second role has become important, as he said Islam has been in the media spotlight in recent years. MSA said it hopes to educate students by ensuring that the correct information about the Islamic faith is shared in an effort to break down misconceptions that may have been born out of misinformation or a lack of information on the whole.

According to Mahmood, one of the greatest things about Fast-A-Thon is the way it unites the campus around a  cultural and charity oriented event.“It’s a lot of fun. You get to meet and get to know people,” Mahood said. “We often underestimate how powerful it is to sit and eat with someone.”