Friday, April 25, 1997

Islam Awareness Month Dispels Stereotypes

Islam Awareness Month Dispels Stereotypes
The Chicago Maroon
By Pamela Appea

Sounds of Muslim religious music combined with the aroma of samosas, falafel and Middle Eastern-style chicken, drew a crowd of at least 100 students to Hutch Commons this past Tuesday, April 22, for the Muslim Students Association (MSA) study break. MSA’s study break kicked off its second annual Islam Awareness Month (IAM), which will be held from fourth to seventh weeks [of the quarter.] Weekly lectures, informational booths, student panel discussions and other events will be held throughout IAM.

“The purpose of IAM is to increase awareness to all people [in the U of C community.] MSA wanted people to get their source of information about Islam and Muslims from the believers themselves,” said first-year student in the College Tareq Mahmud, vice president of MSA. Mahmud feels that non-Muslims often get a distorted or narrow view of Islam from the media and other second-hand sources.

Many of MSA’s events aim to explore issues of gender, race, nationalism and Islamic beliefs and practices.

“One of our lectures is by Aminah Assilmi, a Native American Muslim convert, who does a lot of lecturing on women and Islam,” said Tammie Isamil, a third-year student in the College, and MSA president. Ismail expected the lecture to be both interesting and provocative.

One MSA member explained that Muslim women are often expected to explain their religious practices, because some non-Muslims feel that Muslim women are “subjugating” themselves by the practice of hijab, the tradition of a woman’s covering her hair and wearing modest dress. She said that she does not feel that Islam and its traditions are oppressive to her.

Ismail went on to explain that Assilmi also does a regular Muslim TV show which explores issues of gender in relation to Islam. “We would like everyone to come out for alone one or two events. IAM is one of our biggest events of the year,” said Ismail.

MSA feels it is especially important that IAM exists because, according to Mahmud, Islam is the fastest growing religion in America and England. Orthodox Islam, as opposed to the separate Nation of Islam, is growing especially quickly among the black community in larger cities.

All lectures and panel discussions will provide free food and refreshments courtesy of MSA and Student Government.

Originally published April 25, 1997