In a banquet room above the student union's bopping pingpong balls and blaring arcade games, the groan of empty stomachs met the hum of Arabic prayer.

Tables of 20-somethings at the University of Texas at Dallas drooled over plates of hummus as their Muslim counterparts concluded their pre-dinner supplications for Ramadan. Then everyone ate for the first time since dawn. "Why do they put that in front of us to stare at?" whined 19-year-old Sara Arnold before she got permission to rip a hunk of pita bread and dunk it into the chickpea dip.

The Muslim Students Association's fast-a-thon – a riff on religious doctrine – draws hundreds of non-Muslim students who choose to fast for one day with their Muslim peers and attend the daily iftar banquet in the evening to break it.

They now share in the age-old custom of spiritual and physical cleansing tied to the holiday, which runs through September this year.

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