Last week, I saw the beauty of what a college campus brings. In my four years here, I have never seen students of all backgrounds participate in Explore Islam Week with such enthusiasm. Christians, Jews and Hindus poured into our events and sat in the same rows with respectful intention of learning about the Islamic faith. This could only happen at a college campus like the University of Michigan, where students not only respect each other’s differences, but also actively seek to understand them.
My experience as an American Muslim has had its ups and downs. As the only Muslim in my class in high school, I recall the awkwardness I felt whenever a classmate brought up the latest terrorism threat in the news that day. Whenever history class reached the era of Islam, I could always expect the textbook to contain at least a few misquotes and mistranslations of the Quran. Outside of class, praying five times a day became a daily struggle as I searched out for empty classrooms or hallways. I nervously looked over my shoulder because anyone who walked in on me bowing before God would freak out and start asking me if I needed medical assistance. I had to make excuses in the middle of class or wrestling practice in order to complete my daily prayers.
That all changed when I came to Ann Arbor. I no longer have a problem walking out of class or praying on the side of a crowded hallway. I usually get compliments after I’m finished praying for following what I believe in. One Christian classmate even pointed out to me the direction of Mecca. I’ve come a long way from my high school days, and my motivation comes from the atmosphere and attitude students have created on campus.
As a final message, I must say my religious beliefs only reaffirm the American ideals taught to me in my grade school civics classes, like equal rights. More than 1,000 years ago, Prophet Muhammad liberated women in the Arabian Peninsula and gave them legal and economic rights with their spouses. Unfortunately, some Muslims have forgotten that. Prophet Muhammad also stressed the importance of educating oneself and the need for assisting those who cannot help themselves. I push myself to serve the poor in my community by volunteering at free clinics in Detroit.
Every single year, Muslims around the world donate 2.5 percent of their savings to the impoverished (one of the five pillars of Islam). I hope to see more students at future events hosted by the Muslim Students Association so we can learn more from one another in the hope of understanding the world around us.
The letter writer is the social chair of the Muslim Students Association.