In a banquet room above the student union's bopping pingpong balls and blaring arcade games, the groan of empty stomachs met the hum of Arabic prayer.
Tables of 20-somethings at the University of Texas at Dallas drooled over plates of hummus as their Muslim counterparts concluded their pre-dinner supplications for Ramadan. Then everyone ate for the first time since dawn. "Why do they put that in front of us to stare at?" whined 19-year-old Sara Arnold before she got permission to rip a hunk of pita bread and dunk it into the chickpea dip.
The Muslim Students Association's fast-a-thon – a riff on religious doctrine – draws hundreds of non-Muslim students who choose to fast for one day with their Muslim peers and attend the daily iftar banquet in the evening to break it.
They now share in the age-old custom of spiritual and physical cleansing tied to the holiday, which runs through September this year…
Part of the heightened awareness comes from Muslim outreach efforts, especially fast-breaking celebrations hosted by area mosques that incorporate lessons about Ramadan.
But these interfaith actions are most obvious among college students, said Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"The fear is still there, but people are looking for answers, especially the youth," he said. "There is a genuine interest to understand, and they don't see the world the same way as the older generation. They're not as uptight."