Instead of learning it in a lecture hall or reading it in a textbook, students can participate in Muslim rituals and experience Muslim culture through a “A Day in the Life,” presented by the Muslim Students’ Association. The program pairs non-Muslim students with a “buddy” from MSA with whom they will be in contact and attend events from today until Friday.
Over the course of the three days, participants will view an Islamic calligraphy exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, attend prayer in a mosque at the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor and have the option to wear a cap as some Muslim men do or the scarf as some Muslim women choose to wear.
“It’s a more informal, personal experience,” said MSA Vice President Aisha Jukaku. “You get to have a better perspective of what it’s like (to be a Muslim) and ask questions in a more comfortable setting.”
Amjad Tarsin, LSA junior and Islam awareness chair for MSA, said the purpose of the program is to allow non-Muslims to gain insight into spiritual and religious practices they would not be able to see otherwise.
“The goal of it is to build cultural and educational bridges and clear misconceptions portrayed by the media,” Tarsin said.
Azmat Khan, LSA sophomore and social chair for the Pakistani Students’ Association, echoed Tarsin, saying that while people can see a Muslim kneeling to pray on television, experiencing it in person can offer a better understanding of what the prayer actually means.
“It definitely gives students the opportunity to experience the private aspects of the religion that aren’t often seen,” Khan said.
PSA is co-sponsoring the program along with the Arab International Students’ Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the South Asian Awareness Network.
Khan also noted that during the previous two years of the program, people have gained a new and more comprehensive understanding of Islam.
“It makes me very hopeful for the future,” she said.
Other opportunities for participating students are the option of fasting as a Muslim would during the month of Ramadan or participating in prayer with their Muslim partner at each of the five times observant Muslims pray each day.
A question-and-answer session will be held tomorrow night to allow participants to ask why people chose Islam and to clear up any false impressions of Islam, Tarsin said.
According to Tarsin, past programs have included between 10 and 20 participants. This year, those who take part in the program will receive a tote bag filled with informational books on Islam and a calendar with Islamic images from around the world.
“People can take something tangible home with them and maybe benefit from it later on,” Tarsin said.