NUO associate professor of education Dr. Carol Doyle-Jones and Dr. Cordelia Yates, a professor in the Sharon Walker School of Education at Morningside University, Iowa, enjoy the traditional foods served during Ramadan at the Iftar hosted by Niagara University in Ontario on March 20, 2024.

Students, staff, faculty, and members of the community, including the YMCA, York Region Police, and the Vaughan Mosque, attended the second annual Ramadan Iftar hosted by Niagara University in Ontario on March 20, 2024.

“Ramadan is a time of worship, community, reflection, and discipline,” said Dr. Asma Ahmed, assistant professor in the College of Education, who coordinated the event with her Muslim colleagues on the faculty of the Bachelor of Professional Studies program. “Ultimately, we believe it is a time to recalibrate one's actions to serve humanity and be stewards of the earth, which is essential for attaining the pleasure of God. Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk every Ramadan for 30 days, and Iftar is the breaking of the fast.”

Ramadan began this year on March 11 and will end on April 11. Eid, one of the main Muslim celebrations, will be held around the world on April 12.

The NUO Iftar started with an activity designed to raise awareness “that you can never tell whether someone is Muslim just by their appearance,” Dr. Ahmed said. She explained that an image of a person was projected on a screen, and the audience was asked to determine if they thought the person was Muslim or not.

Following the activity, representatives from the Vaughan Mosque led a call for prayers and fasting members proceeded to a designated space for prayer before dinner began.

On the menu was Afghan Qabeli palaw, steamed rice mixed with caramelized carrots and raisins; chicken and falafel Shawarma; and Tabouli salad, made of finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, mint, onion, soaked bulgur, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. The favorite dish was the Qatayef stuffed with nuts, Dr. Ahmed said. “Some faculty took a few home for their families, and they said it was ‘magical.’”

Dr. Ahmed organized the Iftar to help “individuals from different cultures come together to explore and learn about Muslims and Islam. Raising awareness and understanding helps with intercultural harmony and combating Islamophobic biases,” she said.