The Muslim community of France, numbering five million, is the largest Muslim community in Europe. While their sheer numbers have brought French Muslims visibility, they are broken into hundreds of groups that are divided by ethnicity, ideology, and class, and has therefore had no united voice or significant political power. All that changed recently when the French government help set up a national, elected “French Muslim Council” that can effectively represent French Muslims (much like the UK’s Muslim Council of Britain. The council’s raison d’no support structure to help Muslims in dorms who had to eat breakfast before sunrise and save their dinners until after sundown. Today, Ramadan has come into its own as a campus event that Muslims share with their fellow students, and their colleagues are helping make it a group celebration. In addition to seminars and talks that explain the significance of Ramadan to Muslims, Muslim student groups are inviting other students to join them for iftars (fast-breaking meals). “This event will show what Islam is really about,” explained UC Davis senior Samrana Ihsan at an interfaith iftar scene repeated at many US campuses. “The best way to break down those stereotypes is to interact with Muslims.” Other creative ideas include “fast-for-a-day” events and fast-a-thons that raise money for charity. One of the most interesting developments is the support fasting Muslims have received from Jewish students. At Yale, the local Hillel house caters iftar meals for Muslim students, and Cornell’s Kosher Dining Hall provides a similar service for Muslims there. “It’s working out very nicely,” said Yale Hillel VP Beth Kalisch. “As Jewish students, we understand that having religious dietary restrictions can make it difficult to eat in the dining halls.”
Shahed Amanullah is editor-in-chief of altmuslim.com.