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April 07, 1995 - Image 3

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-04-07

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 7, 1995 - 3







lily Staff Reporter
The desks are pushed aside, the calculus prob-
lems on the chalkboard are ignored, and the
woman dressed in the teal jilbab and white hijab
transforms the Mason Hall classroom into a place of
As Muna Jondy prostrates herself toward Mecca
and glorifies Allah, she makes no "differentiation
Aween religion and everyday life."
T he house at 1214 Packard is not your average
residence. Located behind the surrounding high
wall, it is a rare oasis of tranquility in a busy city. Shoes
must be left at the door as one enters the 19th century-
style house. Inside, 25 people chant and bow toward the
nze, jewel-laden Buddha, asking for inner strength.
it's Saturday and YaelEbenstein attends her Safehouse
training session - in a dress down to her ankles. She
was not able to carry her binder there or take notes
during the day. She must leave in the middle to eat a
kosher lunch that is available only at Hillel.

The experiences of these observant
college students are diverse in detail, yet
similar in nature. Within the fast-paced,
secular environment of Ann Arbor, many
students find ways to observe avid beliefs.
To keep kosher, to pray as many as five
times a day, or to strive to become a Bud-
dha can require a University student to be
an extremely devout, yet tolerant, indi-

University, she hadto pay hail dues, only to
find out that all the money was spent on
pizza, which she could not eat.
She is shomer negiah, which means
that she cannot have physical contact with
someone of the opposite sex, yet there are
no women-only hours at the Central Cam-
pus Recreation Building swimming pool.
"In other environments, I can live more
religiously and here, I justhave to maintain
it," Ebenstein said. "Here, it's just a matter
of keeping the status quo because there
isn't as much room to become more reli-
gious if Iwanted to, orbecome more obser-
vant, or take it more seriously."
K halid Kadir, a
first-year En-
gineering student, is
in his five-hour
Chemistry 210 lab
when he realizesthat
he must leave to
meet his "brother"
in another room for prayer-the third time
that day.
"As far as Islam goes, it's all or noth-
ing," he said.
Kadir explains with confidence, "It's
something that you have the decision, 'Do
you believe, or do you not?' and if you do,
you have to put everything into it."
With Muslim and Jewish students in
particular, the simple act of eating be-
comes a battle. To consume pork, alcohol,
or beef from an animal that was not slaugh-
tered under religious law, or even to mix
dairy products with meat products are for-
bidden acts. For some, the dishes must be
purely kosher or halal as well.
Kadir does not eat meals in restaurants
that do not serve halal food and he is even
wary of eating cake in the dorm because it
might have been made with rum.
"It's a matter of principle," he said.
"It's not going to hurt me to eat it, I'm not
going to die, but I don't bother taking the
LSA sophomore Talal A-Azem, also a
Muslim, said, "You have to stand back and
look at what is important. There are a lot of
temptations, especially in a society where
a lot of stuff thatis forbidden to us is open."
Many observant students experience
added pressures to portray their religion in
certain ways. LSA junior Muna Jondy said
she feels at odds with the community around
her, yet she takes on a responsibility to
represent the religion of Islam in the proper
"I have to realize that most people with
whom I am in contact, it might be the only
encounter with a Muslim they ever have,"
Jondy said. "I have to realize that whatever
the people see of me, they're going to think
that's my religion and that's what all Mus-
lims are like. I have to be on guard."
Jondy, whose long robe and scarf visu-
ally define her as a Muslim, often receives
undesired attention in a country where
such clothing is unusual. However, Jondy
said she wears the Muslim garb to empha-
size attributes other than her physical ap-
pearance - such as intelligence and be-

Suzan Asbahi
(left) and Muna
Jondy kneel for
supplication In a
Mason Hall

Ink Im"

M any students find
beliefs provide a back-
bone for life.
"I feel that religion
gives me so much," said
LSA junior Ebenstein,
an Orthodox Jew. "It

Ari Caroline, an RC junior, sits among friends at a cultural event sponsored by Hillel, one of two Jewish student centers on

gives me guidelines for my lifestyle. It
gives meaning to everything I do."
Within the strict observances, some
students are forced to find a balance be-
tween their religious and secular lives. Ari
Caroline, an RC junior and an Orthodox
Jew, said, "If I want to be at a secular
university and still be observant, there's
extra work involved."
The temptations to stray from the strict
religious laws can be overwhelming, yet
not altogether defeating.
"I may be very tempted to do certain
things, but I won't and that doesn't mean
that I pass every single test that is given to
me," Caroline said. "I tell myself, 'All
right, I lost that battle,' and move on to the
It is not as easy for everyone, however.
Over the past three years, Ebenstein has
developed a deep frustration about her
college life.
Forexample, she has afinal exam sched-
uled on Passover, and because it falls dur-
ing the few days of the eight-day obser-
vance when an observant Jew cannot read
or write, she must take a makeup exam.
At the beginning of her first year at the

"If the religion is truly within you, it's
going to show and people are going to want
to know about it just because of you andnot
because of a book that's in front of them,"
Jondy said.
Nevertheless, not every contact is posi-
tive. Jondy's "sister," Suzan Asbahi, an
LSA sophomore, is fed up with the harass-
ment she receives.
Asbahi and Jondy share a dress familiar
to many Americans from media images
about some oppressed Muslim women or
Muslims who are involved in terrorist'acts.
Many Muslims would like to dispel these
myths about their religion.
"We don't do anything to endanger
society," Asbahi explained. "Yet, people
take their aggression out about terrorism
on us."
Asbahi and Jondy also attribute some
of their anger to the opposite sex, as both
say they hear many stereotypical com-
ments from males. "I think that they have
a problem seeing somebody take a stance
and claim an identity different than what
their ideologies are of what a woman should
be like," Jondy said.
Aside from the problems these women
encounter, they appreciate what this soci-
ety has given them. According to Jondy,
"The freedoms of religions we have here,
we could never have in any Muslim coun-
Many find the University community
hospitable to their lifestyle. Starting next
term, Jews will be able to choose a Kosher
meal plan, which will be provided by Hillel.
The University recently provided Muslims
an open place in the Law Quad to pray.
Buddhist students can find solitude to medi-
tate at the temple on Packard.
Moreover, there are many organiza-,
tions on campus that facilitate religious
students' lives.
Between the Muslim Students Asso-
ciation, his extremely diverse hall in Bursley

Religion on Campus Nationwide
The percentage of first-year students indentifying with sel
0 5 10 15 20 25








lected religions:




r Christian
er religion
Lutheran W
Buddhist 341.3%
Islamic 1.1%
ted Church 1.0%
of Christ
n Orthodox 1.0%
Mormon 0.6%
eventh Day
Adventist 0.3%
Quaker 0.3%




stances are a part of the life of some college
students, many religions forbid drinking
alcohol and using drugs.
"I think Buddhism is all about being in
the present moment and being clear,"
Chandonnet said. "It is a personal belief
that I don't like how my body feels (with
alcohol and drugs), but it is something that
is reaffirmed by the Buddhist thought that

plains his philosophy. The white top of the
Espresso Royale mug that sits on the table
is not really "white," he said.
"Everything is emptiness and empti-
ness is everything," Choi said. "We per-
ceive things by our own way of doing
things. Buddha is teaching us that there is
maybe another way of perceiving it that we
cannot see."



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