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SUNY Empire State College Student Featured in Newsday Instagram Project about Ramadan

By Layla Abdullah-Poulos ‘10, graduate student, SUNY Empire State College

June 25, 2015

Muslim woman praying at Ramadan The month of Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims around the world. Observers fast for 29-30 days according to the lunar calendar. Fasters eat a special pre-dawn meal known as suhoor. Then they refrain from eating and drinking until after sunset, when they partake in a special break-fast meal known as iftar. These special meals often are shared with family, friends and fellow Muslims at local mosques and community centers. For Muslims, Ramadan marks a time for personal reflection and focusing on the sacred. In order to encourage cultural awareness about Muslims, Newsday developed an Instagram project about Muslims fasting during Ramadan. School for Graduate Studies student Layla Abdullah-Poulos ‘10 is one of five Muslims featured in the Ramadan project.

Abdullah-Poulos was selected to participate in Newsday's Long Island Ramadan: Eat, Pray Fast, which involves five Long Island Muslims posting photos on Instagram that will then be exhibited on the newspaper's website. The purpose of the project is to allow Muslims to share their experiences during the month.

Each of the five participants is provided a handle, including: Ammad Sheikh, "The Commuter"; Sarah Eltabib, "The Single Mom"; Ozlem Gunes, "The Teenager"; and Siddique Farooqi, "The Sports Fan." Abdullah-Poulos’ handle is "The Teacher." All those featured also are given a special hashtag to add to their Instagram posts. Posts with the hashtag are then added to the participant's Newsday.com page.

Abdullah-Poulos considers the project an opportunity to show the rich and diverse lives of Muslims living in the United States. "There are a lot of stereotypes and prejudices about Islam in this country," explains Abdullah-Poulos. "I think the more people see about the daily lives of Muslims, the easier it will be to expunge them. For example, there is the erroneous assumption that Muslims are exclusively immigrants. However, there is a large population of native-born Muslims, like myself.”

‌The Newsday.com page created for Abdullah-Poulos includes a short bio, in which, Abdullah-Poulos mentions her work as adjunct learning coach at SUNY Empire State College as well as her work as president of the Minority Students in Action student group and on-staff student writer for Empire State College’s student-run online newsletter, The Student Connection. "So much of who I am today is because of my work and studies at Empire," explains Abdullah-Poulos. “I can’t imagine doing something like this without including the college and the dynamic people here.”

Muslim Graduate Student Layla Abdullah-Poulos with Long Island mentor Matthew Schmidt Many pictures posted by Abdullah-Poulos, like the one of her, at far left, and Long Island mentor Matthew Schmidt, at left, demonstrate the academic community she developed at SUNY Empire State College. Interwoven between posts of Abdullah-Poulos' interaction with her family and community are pictures of Abdullah-Poulos with college instructors, fellow students and staff, and at events like the 2015 Long Island Region commencement ceremony. "I want everyone to see what a great place the college is to work and learn, and show how cultural diversity is appreciated here." Abdullah-Poulos said.

To view Abdullah-Poulos' pictures visit her Newsday Long Island Ramadan: The teacher page.

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The June issue of Empire State College's Student Health 101  features six ways to fix motivation fails.

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