Event aims to teach culture with taste

McDaniel dinner to feature food from Muslim countries

Carroll County

November 06, 2003|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

As if the three-hour biology labs and the other challenges of the freshmen year of college aren't enough to throw the body into a loop, Fetihe Abdulwahab has been going all day without eating or drinking.

That's because Abdulwahab, a 17-year-old from Laurel who is in his first year at McDaniel College, is observing Ramadan, the holy month in which Muslims fast from dawn until sundown every day as a commitment to their faith. For more than a week, Abdulwahab has been breaking fast after sunset by himself, slowly reintroducing water and food, such as vegetables, into his body.

Tonight, though, Abdulwahab will end the day's fast with a few other Muslim students - as well as with other McDaniel students, faculty and staff members and Westminster residents - at a dinner of traditional food from the Middle East and other Muslim countries. Nearly 100 tickets have been sold for the college's Taste of Islam, where the menu includes baba ghannouj, a dip with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and cilantro, and kufta bis-sayniya, which is baked ground beef and lamb with tomato sauce.

The first Taste of Islam dinner was held in 2000 as a means to give students and the community a taste of Ramadan - literally. Since then, 100 to 120 people have participated in the event annually.

Although the food is the main attraction, the event's underlying purpose is to educate participants about the religion and its culture - a goal made even more urgent after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, organizers say.

"At this event, we're actually letting people know more about the Muslim culture," said Cindy Brooks, a junior and president of the Multicultural Student Association, which is organizing the event. "If people come out just for the food, they leave with something they've learned."

The event also will include a reading from the Quran, an explanation on the significance of Ramadan and a time for Muslims to share their Ramadan experiences.

Muslims believe fasting during Ramadan, which began Oct. 27 this year, teaches discipline and restraint; abstaining during Ramadan is one of Islam's five pillars. There are about 7 million Muslims in the United States and 1.2 billion in the world, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington.

For Abdulwahab, who has been observing the holy month since he was 11, Ramadan this year has been especially hard because of the demands facing a young biology major studying to become a doctor. "You need energy for your brain to function, but then you take up all your energy studying," he said. "By the time it's 4 p.m., you become tired."

Still, his commitment to his faith has strengthened him even as his stomach growls.

"It makes me empathize with the poor people who don't have food," Abdulwahab said. "I'm trying to pray as much as I can and practice my religion as much as I can."

McDaniel College, with an undergraduate student body of 1,600, does not keep track of the number of Muslim students. Mohamed Esa, an associate professor of foreign languages and the faculty adviser for the Multicultural Student Association, said he knows of six Muslim students at the school.

Esa said he hopes the event enables students, residents and faculty and staff members to experience a positive aspect of Islam that he says is not often highlighted in the mainstream media.

"It's very, very important that they get the right image, so they could make up their minds afterward," Esa said.

The dinner will begin at 6 p.m. at Decker College Center's Forum room with lighter foods that are traditionally eaten to break the fast, such as dates and hummus. Other food will include chicken curry and mango with sticky rice.

Admission is $5 for McDaniel students and children younger than 12, $10 for faculty and staff members, and $15 for community members.

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