By Lolla Mohammed Nur, Engage Minnesota
There is little doubt that many Minnesotans misunderstand Islam and the Muslim community. Misconceptions of Islam, however, did not arise out of empty air; the actions of a radical few have led people to see Islam as a barbaric religion. Although the frustration of “radicals” may be understood, there certainly are more peaceful ways of expressing one’s Islamic beliefs to the non-Muslim community, namely through spreading knowledge (da’wah).
Islamic Awareness Week is an example of such peaceful expression. The week includes a range of activities, from a simulation of “flying while Muslim” to a lecture on “Science in Islam.” The 2008 event is set to take place March 31 through April 4, and is sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Muslim Student Association and Al-Madinah Cultural Center.
Evening Lectures Get ‘Back to the Basics’
The topics of this year’s Islamic Awareness Week evening lectures are based on a “back to the basics” theme. They include:
- Monday: “The concept of God in Islam,” presented by Sheikh Khalid Yasin
- Tuesday: A panel discussion of the American Muslim identity
- Wednesday: “The Prophets of Islam,” by Imam Siraj Wahaj
- Thursday: “Science in Islam,” by Prof. George Saleba
- Friday: “Women in Islam,” by Imani Jaafar-Mohammed
The lectures on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will take place in the University of Minnesota’s Willey Hall, Room 125 (map it). The lectures on Thursday and Friday will take place in the U. of M.’s Anderson Hall, Room 210 (map it). Both buildings are on the University’s West Bank campus on either side of Washington Avenue and east of 19th Street. Each lecture is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. The goal of each is to discuss basic Islamic principles.
“There is no need to be on the defense,” says Nadia Huq, an organizer of this year’s Awareness Week. Rather, the lectures and activities will be based on what non-Muslims need to know about what is essentially Islam.
Islamic Awareness Week: Not Just a Load of Lectures
There also are a number of creative daytime activities, all at Coffman Memorial Union (see a map) south of Washington Avenue on the U. of M.’s East Bank campus. These include:
- An airport simulation on Monday outside Coffman. This will represent what it is like for a Muslim to be searched in an airport (11 a.m.-2 p.m.).
- On Tuesday, a photography exhibit of the Muslim-American identity will be displayed in the President’s Room in Coffman (noon-2 p.m.).
- Thursday’s event—the Islamic civilization exhibit in Coffman’s Great Hall (11 a.m.- 2 p.m.)— is the most creative event so far, with a display of scientific discoveries made by Muslims, as well as a large-scale timeline of Islam-related events around the world. There will also be a section on Islamic culture and history in Africa, as well as a marbling and calligraphy workshop.
- On Friday, there are two events. “Hijabi for a Day”—where volunteers hand out free hijabs (scarves) for women to wear for the day—and a nasheed performance. Nasheed is a popular “a capella” form of religious singing. Both will take place outside Coffman from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Last year, “Hijabi for a Day” was such a success that the committee decided to host the event again this year. The difference this year is that the committee received several free hijabs from the Karmel Somali mall in Minneapolis. Another advantage this year is that Holy Land Deli will serve free food during every night’s lecture.
Reaching Out to the Public
The IAW committee has devoted its time since November to putting ideas together, talking to the general Muslim student body, contacting potential speakers, and reserving spaces for lectures. As Volunteer Coordinator and board member of Al-Madinah, I have seen that the committee has made a strong effort to reach out to the public. Furthermore, the committee has striven to make this year’s Islamic Awareness Week very creative and catchy, using a “back to the basics” theme throughout the lectures and activities.
The fliers were designed to catch the public’s attention, with their black and white pictures of curious-looking Muslims staring at the onlooker. Fliers were posted all around campus and in local stores and restaurants, but everyone – from anywhere in Minnesota – is welcome to attend. The organizers of Islamic Awareness Week feel that we, as a representative of the real Muslim community, need to reach out to the public and make as much da’wah as possible.
Organizers expect Islam Awareness Week will be a great success, and are hoping for at least 200 attendees for each lecture. Islamic Awareness Week is the most important event that the Muslim Student Association and Al-Madinah host every year because it is a source of da’wah to many non-Muslims who have come to equate Islam with terrorism and believe that all Muslims are terrorists. Da’wah can help dispel these beliefs and restore the true, peaceful, image of Islam.
So brothers and sisters, please support your Muslim community and participate in Islamic Awareness Week by attending at least one event – and bringing a friend. The entire Minnesota community is welcome. Participating in da’wah together can only bridge the gap of misunderstandings and spread knowledge of the true and beautiful entity of Islam.
Lolla Mohammed Nur is a freshman and an international student from Saudi Arabia. She is currently a biology major at the University of Minnesota but is exploring her newfound interest in poetry and cultural diversity.