Muslim Olympians pass on fast

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Aug. 3, 2012 at 3:03 a.m.

For thousands of Muslim Olympians competing in the 2012 summer games, many are faced with the decision of whether they should fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

The 30-day period of fasting, prayer, physical and spiritual sacrifice is observed in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and considered one the of the Five Pillars of Islam. Food, sexual contact, drink, even water is forbidden from sunrise to sunset. After sunset, families celebrate Iftar, or a break-the-fast meal.

This year, Ramadan commenced July 20, and continues during the London Olympic games. Because athletes are vying for top international sporting honors, which requires proper nutrition and hydration for elite level competition, some Muslims are choosing to pass on the fast.

"There is an excuse given for those who are sick or traveling, that they can postpone fasting during Ramadan because it creates a hardship on them," said Victoria Islamic Center President Dr. Shahid Hashmi. "But if they are able, they have to make it up at some point during the year for all the days they missed."

Hashmi explained the Muslim Olympian competitors are within their right to suspend fasting during the holy month because they are traveling long distances, and extreme competition may put additional stress on their bodies.

"But it is a personal choice," he said. "If they would like to fast while traveling, it is more rewarding during the days of Ramadan."

Here's a look at four Muslim Olympians who are choosing to postpone their Ramandan observances until the Olympics have ended.

1. Maher Abu Remeleh, 28, of Palestine, First Palestinian to qualify for Olympics in Judo, 28-year-old, Ranked 162nd in the world by the International Judo Federation

2. Mo Farah, 29, of Somalia, British team long distance runner, 5,000 meter world champion.

3. Mohamed Sbihi, 24, of Morroco, British team rower, first Muslim to represent Great Britain in senior rowing.

4. Mazen Aziz, 22, of Egypt, 10,000 meter marathon swimmer, winner of FINA Open Water Swimming Grand Prix.



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