Maia Macleod knew when she sat down for breakfast that she had just one hour before sunrise, one hour before giving up food until the evening.

So as she shoveled eggs, fried potatoes and fruit into a tall pile on her plate that recent morning, her friend Saira Farooqui told her to slow down.

“You’re not supposed to stuff yourself like that,” chuckled Farooqui, who was sitting across the table.

MacLeod, 30, is one of at least a dozen non-Muslim friends and family members of worshipers at Masjid Al-Hikmah, a mosque in Long Island City, who are fasting this year for Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, which ends Friday.

Because of their desire to rise to the challenge or to show support for their Muslim friends, they’ve given up food and water from sunrise to sunset for at least a few days.

The fast is meant to teach self-discipline, sacrifice and sympathy for those who cannot afford food.

“I wanted to see what hungry people go through,” MacLeod said. “Instead of stuffing my face, I think about my consumption.”

Al-Hikmah’s religious leader, Imam Shamsi Ali, said he has seen an increase in non-Muslims fasting as a way of learning about the religion they’ve heard so much about in media accounts of the Iraq war.

“They are bridging the gap of understanding,” Ali said.

The worshipers at the mosque said they appreciate their efforts. “People look and think, ‘What a strange practice to starve yourself for 30 days,'” said Farhanna Balgahoom, 25, of Woodside, who regularly goes to the mosque. “But once they experience it, I think they see it more as something that’s a lesson.” (MORE)


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