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Ramadan Dinner in Downtown State College Aims to Bring Cultures Together

by on July 19, 2014 11:00 AM

State College sees a lot of street fairs and outdoor events, but Penn State student Halil Okur has helped set up an event on Saturday evening he thinks will be “truly unique for State College.”

Okur, a Turkish Ph.D. student in chemistry and volunteer with the Turkish Cultural Center of PA, has helped organize a Ramadan Dinner event at 8 p.m. on Locust Lane in downtown State College to promote mutual understanding between different cultures.

“State College is a pretty international and multicultural city,” Okur says, but adds that many events pertaining to the Muslim faith aren’t open to the public. Saturday’s dinner, which will be catered by Penn Kebab, will feature free food and entertainment and is open to all who wish to attend, regardless of background.

The month of Ramadan is a period of fasting in Islam, in which adherents fast each day from sunrise until sunset. Okur says in larger cities with prominent Muslim populations, many people will gather together in Ramadan dinner tents set up on the streets to break their fasts together. These tents also often feature art and entertainment, giving the religious observance a character of joy and celebration.

“Over the years, it has evolved in a way that it's both a religious and a cultural event at the same time,” Okur says.

He knows many State College residents have recently enjoyed the food and entertainment of Arts Fest, but hopes that they’ll find the Ramadan dinner equally enriching. In addition to the complimentary food, a collection of photography and traditional art will offer insight to the Turkish and Islamic cultures while educating the public about the nature of Ramadan.

Okur says the Turkish Cultural Center’s goal is to help create an open, friendly dialogue to bring the United States and Turkish cultures closer together, “and a dinner is probably the best thing for that." 

“We want people from other cultural backgrounds to see that they are very similar,” Okur says. “Over all, we have many more similarities than differences.”

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Michael Garrett is a freelance reporter who covers a wide range of assignments for StateCollege.com.
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