Carthage students demonstrate understanding and respect at iftar dinner
About 45 Carthage students participated in an iftar (breaking of the fast) dinner at the Turkish American Society of Chicago on April 1 as part of class activities for the courses Islam and Understandings of Religion (honors).
The entire event, which was put on exclusively for Carthage students, opened their eyes to the life of a Muslim, but more specifically during the holy month of Ramadan. The dinner, visitation of the prayer hall, speeches about the fasting ritual, live music performance, ebru (water marbling) presentation, and table conversations strengthened their understanding of Islam and how these religious practices impact a Muslim’s life.
The students had an opportunity to see how elements of religion and culture can be reflected onto each other and how Islamic traditions and practices blended with Turkish culture. The trip was an excellent experience for learning more about the holy month of Ramadan, the religion of Islam, and being able to interact with people who are Muslims and other Carthage students outside a classroom setting.
The building and the prayer hall are filled with artwork, décor, and various designs.
The students watched ebru, a centuries-old spiritual art form. This art was performed by sprinkling color pigments into an oily substance, pulling and prodding special brushes to create different shapes and designs, then transferring them onto a sheet of paper.
The father and daughter singing combo sang traditional Turkish songs with the saz, a traditional string instrument with a riveting high-pitched tone. The students also witnessed the father’s rendition of the adhan (call to prayer), signaling the iftar time.
Finally, the students listened to the closing remarks made by Carthage alumna Sabiella (Gomez) Gorsuch ’19 and her story of taking religion courses at Carthage, which gave her a greater sense of the community. Ms. Gorsuch also talked about the significance of understanding various cultures and traditions. The night was filled with culture, religion, food, fun, and laughter, and the students appreciated being pushed out of their comfort zone and sharing conversations and meals with people they most likely would have never met.
With an estimated population of 1.8 billion followers, Islam is the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity. Still, more than half of Americans say they know little or nothing about Islam and Muslims. The study of Islamic traditions is exceptionally vital in academia because it reminds us that Muslims are a part of the society in which we live.
“I was really able to learn more about Islam from a more similar perspective to mine since [Ayse] is also a college student, which I thought was really nice because it allowed me to connect more with her and the other girls that were at my table about their experiences and how they grew up with their religion.” — Allison Houle ’26
“I didn’t understand the power or importance of the call to prayer sung before the meal until I could hear it in person. The call was compelling and important to those around me. While, like the music, I had no idea what was being said, I could feel that this was not done with light-heartedness. It was interesting to watch those around me become emotional and engulfed by the sound of the call…This call for prayer was probably the most powerful thing that I witnessed the entire day.” —Dawson Gaynor ’26
“I believe that our class will have an easier time applying different concepts that we learn in class now that we have learned from and connected with those who practice Islam in their everyday lives. People really do form relationships over food, so I think the timing of this activity was even more beneficial for the classes that attended.” — Savannah Bezotte ’23
“In this class, we have repeatedly talked about the fact that so much of American beliefs about Islam are misguided and ignorant. This experience really solidified that idea. Even going into the experience, I wondered why we were going to the Turkish American Society when this trip was supposed to be focused around Islam. Then I learned that 99 percent of the Turkish population are Muslims and realized how ignorant of the rest of the world we truly are in America, or at least how ignorant I was on the topic.” — Conner Bousson ’23
“I am very happy that I decided to take this class because of all the misconceptions the media makes about Muslims. After learning from them and talking with some of the students at the table, they were grateful that we all were able to come visit and immerse ourselves into their culture for a little bit. It was an amazing experience, and I can walk away with more knowledge and respect towards Islam as I got to witness this myself in person instead of a textbook or video.” — Lisa Traxel ’25
“Toward the end of the night, a Muslim girl played a Turkish song on her guitar while wearing Air Jordans and a Bulls jersey. I thought that that moment captured a portion of what I believe the purpose of such an event was. The girl was not only expressing her Turkish culture but was also expressing what it meant for some to be a young Turkish-American today.” — Andrew Valentini ’24
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