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After Ramadan came to a close Friday, many of Harvard’s Muslim students criticized the College’s religious accommodations policy, citing challenges including a lack of adequate prayer facilities, poor accessibility, and insufficient dining options.
Ramadan, which began this year on March 22, is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and a holy month of fasting.
Mohamed Salam Moumie Ntieche ’26 said that though he “looks at his presence here at Harvard as a privilege” and appreciates what the College has done so far to support Muslim students, it could do more to provide adequate prayer facilities.
“People within the community are trying their best, but definitely, as a member of the Muslim community, I’ll say that I believe that the University is not doing as much as it should,” he said.
“We meet every Friday in the Lowell Lecture Hall to pray. The entire Muslim community meets in that hall, which is a big hall according to Harvard, but it’s not a big enough hall to accommodate,” he added.
Sameer M. Khan ’24 said he faced difficulties in obtaining proper accommodations for observing Ramadan during his weekly evening chemistry lab last year.
Despite his early communication with the course staff, Khan struggled to find a solution that allowed him to break his fast and engage spiritually with the holiday.
“I identified this issue really early on, actually, and I think I was in contact with the course staff starting in January of that year,” Khan said.
In response to Khan’s requests for accommodations during Ramadan, the course staff initially provided a limited solution — granting Khan a 20-minute break during the lab session to step into another room to eat and pray — but Khan said this option was insufficient.
“The accommodations created this construction of Ramadan that was solely based around this idea of breaking my fast, and being able to take that first bite and then that first sip of water, and then just go back into lab, which to me is not the experience that I’ve had with Ramadan entirely throughout my life,” Khan said.
Students also expressed their dissatisfaction with dining services, the accessibility of halal food options, and the prevalence of alcohol — whose consumption is prohibited in Islam — as an ingredient in a variety of menu options.
“I would just go and pick the desserts, and well, I didn’t think twice,” Moumie Ntieche said, noting his shock when he learned that alcohol was commonly used in these desserts. “Why is it that they are putting alcohol in something like this? Literally anyone can have — should have — access to this.”
In an emailed statement, College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo pointed to Harvard’s existing religious accommodations, noting that the University abides by a Massachusetts law requiring classes to excuse a student without penalty who is unable “because of his religious beliefs, to attend classes or to participate in any examination, study, or work requirement.”
“HUDS has worked in close coordination with the Muslim Chaplains and students in the Islamic Society for the last two years to significantly advance support for students who eat Halal and to provide services during Ramadan,” Palumbo said. “HUDS is continually focused on diverse and inclusive service and menus to support our students.”
Hana Rehman ’25, a Crimson Blog chair, said that practicing religious students on campus are not asking for “something extreme or extravagant” from the College to feel supported.
“The easiest solution is just making sure that professors, faculties, and course heads know that this event is happening and letting students know ahead of time that they’re allowed to take extensions without the students having to advocate for themselves all the time and having to explain themselves, their religious holidays, and their events,” Rehman said.
—Staff writer Makanaka Nyandoro can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Tyler J.H. Ory can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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