Activities & Organizations News

Ramadan tent provides safe space for Muslim community


This year’s Ramadan tent serves over 300 students each night. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

Muslim Student Association at UH, along with Islamic Relief USA and the A.D. Bruce Religion Center, organized the Ramadan Tent to support the Muslim student population during this year’s Ramadan festivities.

The tent is set up outside of the A.D. Bruce Religion Center and serves over 300 students every night. Despite this, the tent isn’t the most sustainable option, according to various UH MSA members.

“Everyday more and more people are coming, and with the limited space we have to start putting tarps out of the tent for the overflow or turning people away which isn’t sustainable,” said UH MSA President Belal Salama. 

The limited space isn’t the only issue that UH MSA has to face during the Ramadan season. Another major problem these students face is the unpredictable Houston weather.

The tent floods whenever it rains heavily and factors like these emphasize the importance and need of a more permanent space for the community, according to Salama. 

In spite of these recurring problems, the community feels grateful for the opportunity they have and feel excited to celebrate their festival together. 

“In a time where you’re fasting and trying to achieve some sort of spiritual growth, this tent provides that place of tranquility and peace,” Salama said. “The way people would describe it is this word in Arabic, ‘sukoon.’” 

Ramadan is considered to be the holiest month for the Muslim community where people who practice the traditional rituals fast from dusk till dawn. The tent allows these students to gather during the evening and break their fast together.

The Ramadan Tent allows students to break their fast together. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

During this time, the tent plays an active role in creating a sense of community, especially for international students whose families live in different countries.

“We can pray alone at our homes as well but it doesn’t have the same joy that you experience when everyone is doing it together,” said english literature Ph.D student Iqra Raza. “It provides a solace that you won’t find especially being away from home during Ramadan, where all the family gathers around and being alone doesn’t feel nice.” 

Salama emphasized that the tent is for the entire UH community, not just for Muslim students. They welcome students from all countries and religions with open arms.

Organizations like Bangladeshi Student Association and Pakistan Student Association are collaborating with UH MSA and bringing out different types of culture and food to the festivities. 

“I am teaching so it’s even more difficult during fasting,” Raza said. “The tent and all the food they provide makes fasting much easier.” 

This was the second year of the tent and according to the students, it has only become better and more fun. 

“Everything is more organized and we haven’t had any hitches in any day of operation,” said UH MSA volunteer Ahmad Ammaz. “They learned from their shortcomings and even added facilities like hand washing station and more lights.”

The Ramadan tent is not just serving the UH community, but is also actively working to support third and fifth wards as well. 

On Thursday, UH MSA took an initiative to pack 40,000 meals with the help of over 150 volunteers and hand them out to people in third and fifth wards.

“We can just walk down there to Chick-Fil-A or get some groceries, but the third ward as a neighborhood is honestly a food desert,” Salama said. “So our initiative aims at helping with that a little bit where we can give out to people and just do our part a little bit.” 

Along with this, UH MSA is trying to raise $5,000 for the refugees with Zakat Foundation, which is also a Muslim organization that is primarily concerned with raising money for charity. 

UH MSA also collaborated with Students for Justice in Palestine, where they decorated the tent with banners and gave presentations. 

“In Palestine people are dying out of hunger. Their children are struggling to eat, and if they find food, they’re eating leaves, or they’re making bread out of literally cattle food,” Salama said. “So this year we’re very cognizant about not wasting any food because you also have to be conscious about all the small things as well.” 

The goal of UH MSA is to raise $60,000 to support the Ramadan operation and they have reached $57,457 so far.

“We have fundraised through alumni, mosques and sponsors to make this project happen,” said UH MSA Campus Life Coordinator Ibrahim Islam. “All the money is going to this Ramadan operation.” 

Ramadan ends April 9, but the tent will stay one week after the end and keep serving students at UH until then. 

“MSA has been on campus since 1964, it’s one of the largest and the oldest organizations on campus,” Salama said. “So when you think about the tent, I don’t think about it as just something that started two years ago, it’s the story of all the people that came along the way and have been trying to do something for the community.” 

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