The Muslim Students’ Association is using this year’s Islam Awareness Week, which began yesterday, to remind students that their daily lives are not much different from those of non-Muslims.
MSA Vice President Wajeeha Shuttari said that after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, many Muslims were stereotyped as terrorists. Though four years have passed, Shuttari said the media continues to portray Muslims not only as terrorists, but also as exotic, eccentric and foreign.
To counter public hostility against Muslims, MSA is filling this week with events that aim to foster a better understanding of the religion instead of hammering its tenets into the student body. Shuttari said this change is mainly due to an improved comprehension and acceptance of Islam on campus.
“Initially, the campus wasn’t aware what Islam was,” she said. “It was more like understanding the principles of the religions and our beliefs. It’s time to let people understand the practicality of Islam.”
She said that since the University started to offer classes about Islam, students have become more educated about the religion and its adherents.
MSA’s interfaith coordinator, Aliyah Rab, who planned the events, said MSA wants students to know that the Muslim lifestyle is not a totally different culture.
“We want to let other people know that Islam is incorporated into every aspect of life,” she said.
The first event, which took place at Hutchins Hall last night, was a screening of the documentary “Muslim Snowboarders,” directed by Omar Mahood, a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology at Wayne State University.
Mahood said he wants to provide a glimpse into American Muslim youth culture, which is rarely portrayed in the general media.
In the documentary, the young snowboarders begin their day with a “traveler’s prayer,” praying for a safe trip. But most of the film portrays them as regular Americans – they go snowboarding, throw snowballs at each other and dress just like Americans, with thick winter coats and snowboarding pants. Mahood said that he wanted to show that Muslim communities can integrate.
The film was intended for Muslim and non-Muslim audiences, Mahood said.
“For a western American, hopefully he sees the Muslim life that he doesn’t always see,” he said. “For Muslims, they will see how well the youth interacts with American culture.”
Today and tomorrow’s events will also take place in Hutchins Hall. Today, three speakers will discuss their conversion to Islam; the main speaker, Heather Laird Jackson, converted to Islam while attending college.
Tomorrow, a speaker will focus on embryology and the Quran. Though written long before embryology was discovered, the Quran has many details about the fertilization process, Rab said.
She added that MSA wants to bring the scientific history of Islam to students’ attention to show that modern technology is compatible with Islam.
Friday, Preacher Moss, a comedian and former writer for “Saturday Night Live,” will do stand-up comedy in the Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union. Moss has been performing special comedy events for high school and college students about racism since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Rab said Moss can help people realize that Muslims actually pursue fields other than medicine and engineering.
“We thought a good way to end the week was to have a comedian come in and portray Islam,” she said. “Muslims do go to very interesting careers, and comedy is one of them. Ultimately, we have fun, and we are going to show it through Preacher Moss.”