While his friends are munching pizzas or guzzling water, junior Rashad Abdulla spends his lunchtime in the library fasting for Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic calendar when the prophet Mohammed was traditionally believed to have received the Qur’an.
“I have to wake up before sunrise to eat breakfast, and then I don’t eat or drink anything for the rest of the day until sunset,” Abdulla said. “That time period is usually between 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
Abdulla says it’s difficult to go through a whole day without food or water, especially during his visits to the gym and judo lessons.
“There are times when I didn’t wake up to eat or drink but I still went through with it anyway,” he said. “Ever since I started fasting regularly for Ramadan when I was 9 or 10, I have never cheated or taken a sip of water.”
Abdulla says the idea of Ramadan is to give up material pleasures to feel spiritually closer to God.
“There are Muslims in Africa that barely have any food depending on the day and they still fast,” he said. “I don’t think I have the right to be complaining.”
Principal Rick Fleming says diversity on campus has increased from previous years and minorities now make up 24 percent of the student population. The school has made accommodations for freshman Nazish Mirza’s religion by allowing her to wear a hijab even though the dress code prohibits head coverings.
“If we see a kid wearing a headdress from day one, we know it’s part of his or her religion and we respect that,” Fleming said. “That’s different from a kid walking around with a towel on his head mockingly.”
As Muslims, Mirza and seventh-grader Huda Naas also recite five prayers each day from the Qur’an. They pray at home because it would be too conspicuous an act at school.
“It would be hard to pray at school,” Naas said. “I’ve heard that certain schools allow Muslims time to pray during the day.”
Abdulla says the difficulties of doing the prayers at school lies in their procedure. Muslims must face towards Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia considered the holiest in Islam, kneel and put their foreheads to the ground during these prayers.
Eighth-grader Leena Quader says it’s not a big deal to pray at home and that she usually has time, but what bothers her is the occasional prejudice.
“Last year in a class, we were learning about all the different religions,” Quader said. “When Islam came up, some boy said that [Muslims] were terrorists and I felt offended by it.”
AP World History teacher Kirk Murphy covers religion in his course and tries to dismantle negative preconceptions towards Muslims when he goes over the religion.
“When we have to talk about Islam, normally I start out with ‘We tend to think of muslims as terrorists, but what percentage of muslims are terrorists?” Murphy said. “They’ll say 10% or 15% and I say ‘You realize you’re talking about 1.5 billion people. Do you really think there’s 15 million terrorists?’ and we can work it down to when they see that just like everything there’s extremists and normal people.”
Murphy says that it’s important to recognize that the school has religious diversity and to be patient and calm with people because of this.
“Every single major religion in the world today, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism has a golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” Murphy said.