Students from all faiths gathered to discuss Muslim culture and the ritual of fasting at the Muslim Student Association's Fast-A-Thon on Nov. 19, 2015, in the Tucker Technology Center at TCU.

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The TCU Muslim Student Association highlighted the importance of fasting to the Islamic faith, as well as the discrimination that many Muslims face, in their annual Fast-A-Thon Wednesday night.

The Fast-A-Thon is meant to bring awareness to the meaningfulness of fasting during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan in July.

MSA co-president Ali Haider said the practice is key to his faith.

“Fasting to me means purification,” Haider said. “The month of Ramadan for me is more a place of finding myself and knowing what my morals are. It helps me be more compassionate to others.”

The MSA encouraged attendees of all faiths to engage in a daytime fast prior to attending a catered dinner at Tucker Technology Center, which featured a local imam as a guest speaker.

Sajid Ali, an imam at the Westcreek Mosque in Fort Worth, spoke upon the benefits of fasting. Ali received a long round of applause after his 40-minute talk, which covered how Islamic practices such as fasting fit into a modern-day life.

“There are many benefits and wisdoms of the act of fasting,” Ali said. “It is a way to become very close to God. When a person is in a state of fasting, he or she prays to God… he asks for something from Allah. It’s easier for him [Allah] to answer.”

Ali also touched on how current events can cause tension between Muslims and non-Muslims. Ali said Muslims are often portrayed in a negative light by the media, and he encouraged people to learn more about others’ faiths as a solution.

“Unfortunately, there have been a lot of misconceptions,” Ali said. “Islam has been given a lot of bad names. Muslims feel that pain. Before you pass a judgment on something, you have to become familiar with it.”

This year, nearly 70 students came to learn about the Islamic faith and share in the Fast-A-Thon.

Haider said the organization was pleased with the turnout, as there is only a small contingent of Muslim students on campus.

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“We had actually expected 20 to 40 people, and we got a lot more than that,” Haider said. “So we were very pleased that a lot of people are actually interested.”

Ali said he was encouraged by the diverse crowd, which was a roughly equal mix of Muslim and non-Muslim students.

“When I came, I did not expect what I saw,” Ali said, referring to the crowd. “It’s very pleasing. It’s very heartwarming to see that people who are not Muslims have showed. It’s a very multicultural room.”

Jacob Greenstein, president of the campus group Better Together, which is dedicated to bringing together students of different faiths, said he learned more than he expected about the teachings of Islam.

“I loved the speaker,” Greenstein said. “He talked a lot more about the Quran and different stories of the Prophet, which I’m not familiar with because I’m not a Muslim, so it was very insightful in that regard.”

Nathaniel Peoples, a student who works in the International Services office, said he attended the event after a friend who practices Islam invited him.

“I thought this was an outstanding event,” Peoples said. “My friend invited me to come out and learn what his culture was about, and I had a blast.”