In an effort to promote awareness of Islam and break down stereotypes and misconceptions of the Muslim community, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) hosted a variety of events during Islamic Awareness Week.
From April 22 to 27, the MSA held events highlighting unity within the Muslim community. Hebba Ahmad, secretary of the MSA and a junior majoring in biology, said Islamic Awareness Week has been an annual event held by the MSA for several years. Each year, members use the week as an opportunity to organize activities that pertain to the culture and history of Islam in an attempt to promote and encourage students to become knowledgeable and engaged in Islamic culture.
“Since these events have been going on for at least four to five years prior to my becoming an officer, I’ve been participating in for quite some time,” Ahmad said. “We all come to college from completely different places and we all grew up with a different sense of identity, so it’s nice to have these events where people can embrace these parts of our culture together and help others to learn as well.”
Members of the organization came together to kick off the week with a calligraphy writing session at Glenn G. Bartle Library. A significant part of Islamic culture, calligraphy has a distinctive role in the religion, architecture, science and mathematics.
Other events centered on creating a Tasbeeh, a set of 99 beads to count as a means to keep track of prayers, and educating non-Muslims about the hijab, a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women. Alina Mufti, a freshman majoring in biomedical engineering, said she believes the way media portrays certain aspects of Muslim culture affects how people perceive important items in the religion, such as the hijab.
“There seems to be a stigma, and to us, it is more about how you get to choose what you want to show the world and what you don’t,” Mufti said. “And by giving women that choice, it can be really empowering.”
With Ramadan coming up, the MSA decided to hold a “Fast-a-thon” on Thursday to prepare participating students for the upcoming month of daily fasting. After abstaining from food and drink for the day, members then came together for Iftar, a meal eaten to break the daily fast during Ramadan after the sun goes down.
According to Naseeb Ally, vice president of the MSA and senior majoring in accounting, members wanted to choose a theme of unity for the banquet.
“We felt it was very important this year to address the divide in our cultures,” Ally said. “Our goal was to promote the idea that we are all the same and how important unity is in today’s world but especially on a college campus.”
Students and community members were encouraged to attend the banquet to learn more about Islamic culture and come together to enjoy food and a guest speaker. Throughout the night, attendees participated in a Maghrib prayer, the fourth of five prayers required for a practicing Muslim each day, and a Qirat competition, where students competed to determine who could best recite prayers from the Quran, focusing on enunciation and pronunciation to add different meanings to the text. At the banquet, current MSA members also announced the 2019-20 MSA E-board.
Haleema Qamar, a first-year graduate student studying biomedical engineering, said although the banquet was the first MSA event that she had attended, she enjoyed a sense of community.
“It was very interesting to get to know different people in the community during the banquet because even though we are united by religion, we are all so different and it gave us an opportunity to become closer despite those differences,” Qamar said.