Nov. 1, 2001
Vol. 21 No. 4

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    MSA planning activities for upcoming Islamic Awareness Week

    By Carrie Golus
    News Office

    After the events of Tuesday, Sept. 11, it’s likely many ––including those who consider themselves well-educated and well-informed––began to educate or re-educate themselves about a part of the world that became, overnight, a central focus in their minds; a country familiar with years of war; a face and name that fills every news medium in this country; and a religion that terrorists and extremists claim to follow.

    As people continue to absorb news and information about the Middle East, Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and the Muslim religion, it also is probable that many feel caught in an atmosphere of confusion and ignorance.

    The University’s Muslim Students Association is just one of dozens of Muslim student groups at universities across the United States and Canada that sponsor annual educational events about Islam. The group’s annual Islamic Awareness Week now seems especially timely. From Monday, Nov. 12 to Friday, Nov. 16, the MSA will sponsor a range of events, including a panel discussion and a film screening.

    This year’s theme is “Islam: Moderation, Toleration and Spiritual Elevation.” “I feel this is very appropriate in light of 9/11,” said Yusra Ahmad, a third-year concentrating in biology and MSA’s treasurer.

    Islamic Awareness Week will open with a campus-wide study break featuring food and music from the Muslim world at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in Hutchinson Commons. On Tuesday, a panel of Muslim graduate students will explore this year’s theme, “moderation, toleration and spiritual elevation,” at 7 p.m. in Pick Hall. The group also plans to screen the PBS documentary Islam: Empire of Faith at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in the Donnelly Biological Sciences Learning Center. And depending on the sighting of the moon, the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, may fall on the final day of Islamic Awareness Week, Friday, Nov. 16. MSA plans to hold an open Koran recitation in the Reynolds Club C-Shop, where members will share their favorite passages from the Muslim holy book.

    Throughout the week, members of MSA will have tables set up in the Reynolds Club, where they will pass out free copies of the Koran and educational brochures on Islam. MSA members also will be available to answer questions.

    “We realize that most people get their information about Islam through the media, which is often incorrect,” said Muhammad Hamid Zaman, a third-year graduate student in chemistry and MSA’s vice president. “People at the University might not know an awful lot about Islam, but they are very much interested in knowing about it. They are very receptive to the idea of working with Muslims and considering them peace-loving individuals.”

    Ahmad added, “There is much common ground between Islam and core Western values. Both espouse freedom, equality and justice. I think with a little research, many Americans would be surprised to discover that there are more ties uniting rather than dividing us.”

    As well as Islamic Awareness Week, MSA has many events planned throughout the academic year. Its largest event is the annual dinner for Eid, a day of thanksgiving and remembrance.

    This year the Eid dinner is planned for Friday, Feb. 22, 2002, in Hutchinson Commons, with professor John Esposito of Georgetown University as guest speaker. Usually more than 300 people attend the event, which features food from around the Islamic world.

    During Ramadan, the group holds daily iftars (breaking of fast) and prayers. Throughout the year, MSA organizes quarterly dinner outings, a Koran study circle, community service trips and lectures on human rights. MSA also helps raise funds for the Benevolence International fund, which provides humanitarian aid to Muslim refugees around the world.

    While most of the members of MSA practice Islam, this is not a requirement for membership, said Zaman. “We encourage people of all faiths, and those who do not necessarily follow a particular faith, to come and join us in our events,” he said. “A lot of people think that MSA is only for Muslims, but we are open to everyone who wants to respect and be friends with Muslims here at the University.”