The Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Seton Hall University hosted Islamic Awareness Week (IAW) this week.
Events included “Ask a Muslim: Dawah Table,” a “Love in Islam” discussion, a speaker on “Mental Health in Islam,” a “Hijabathon” and a “United Jummah” to close in the week off.
The events are meant to foster discussion and unite the University community to come together.
Roba Hassan, a sophomore double major in early childhood special education and social behavior science, with a minor in Psychology and the secretary of MSA, described the events held during Islamic Awareness Week.
“The Ask a Muslim: Dawah Table event aims to spread knowledge and answer any small or large questions students may have,” Hassan said. “We’ll also be holding a bake sale to raise funds for MSA and a large portion will go towards charity.”
“For Love in Islam,” Hassan said, “Dr. Shaakira Abdul Razzaq has taken the time to study about how love is portrayed in Islam and how we can go about achieving different levels of love the way Allah has suggested.” They will also be discussing dating and relationships and how that works within the Muslim community.
“Mental Health in Islam” featured life coach Amina Saad who helps followers work on mental health well-being. They also discussed how students can look to their faith for guidance as well as the stigmas within the Muslim community.
The Hijabathon event includes invited students to try and wear the hijab for the day while in the evening, a panel will be held to discuss the “beauty of hijab as both a garment and concept,” Hassan said. “Participating or not, all [are] welcome. A professor focusing on Muslim studies at Seton Hall Dr. Khan, will be sharing her experiences regarding her hijab and what it means to her!”
Finally, for “United Jummah,” the MSA is hosting their weekly Jummah prayers but for IAW are inviting students across campus to join.
“We’ll have a great khutbah [the small speech before the actual prayer commences] inshallah that is beneficial for all,” Hassan said. “It’s a great experience especially at a time where we are trying to educate our fellow non-Muslim neighbors.”
Hassan went on to comment on what having an IAW means to her.
“I’m so honored that we have an opportunity to hold such a week because it is important to continue to educate students, faculty and administration about a faith that is prevalent among many students on campus,” Hassan said. “This same faith is constantly attacked due to ignorance and I think a week such as IAW is almost essential to have in this day and age.”
She said that change starts from within and that, “we need to start small and help those around us learn. That’s the best way to create a better world!”
Mohamed D Elshekh, a junior double major in international relations and diplomacy and religious studies with a minor in Arabic and the Vice President of MSA also commented on IAW and the importance of hosting this week on a Catholic campus.
“It’s important to teach people about Islam outside of the narrative they get from the media,” Elshekh said. “It is important that people learn about Islam from Muslims the same way they learn about Catholicism from the Catholics here at Seton Hall.”
Nasima Nagim, a senior majoring in accounting and finance, with minors in Spanish and graphic design and advertising as well as the president of MSA also commented on IAW and what it means to her.
“It honestly means a lot to have this week on campus and be able to share my religion and really my identity with the rest of the community,” Nagim said. “Although the planning of the event is stressful, it really makes me happy to see so many members of the community show up, enjoy our events and genuinely have an interest and want to learn more about our community.”
Hassan went on to say how the incident at Christchurch will factor into IAW discussions.
“Christchurch is definitely something that will come up as well as the four other attacks that have targeted Muslims in other countries after Christchurch that the media has not given any attention,” Hassan said. “I think the concept of our Hijabathon event is even more important this year because we see how an entire country is basically having their own hijabathon to stand in solidarity with their human neighbors. It’s such an amazing gesture and sign of respect and I think many participating on campus will also be wearing the hijab for similar reasons.”
Hassan also commented on her opinion of Christchurch.
“During the vigil held on campus last Monday, I made a statement about how ignorance and blind hate are clear motivators of this attack,” Hassan said. “Over 50 people have been killed including men, women, and children. That’s 50 families that lost a father, mother, or child. I think this is a remainder of the sad but constant reality of what Muslims are at risk of racing every day.”
She went on to say that, “Islamophobia is a very scary thing and it’s affects are seen even in a country that is known to have one of the lowest crime rates. The media is constantly trying to keep up the narrative that terrorism is linked to a religion but what happened is yet another event that continues to prove that terrorism has no religion, it has no race. It’s simply pure evil.”
“A terrorist is someone who uses violence to intimidate people to make a political point,” Hassan said. “Just by looking at his 75-page manifesto, it’s clear that he hated the immigration of “non-white” people and wanted to renew “white identity” which was seen from the symbols of white supremacy all over his guns. It’s time to change the narrative, and tackle issues head on. This was terrorism, and the whole world needs to call it like it is.”
Nagim also described her opinion on the Christchurch incident.
“I think what happened at Christchurch should not have happened,” Nagim said. “I think we are having so many of these occurrences these past couple of years. I think a lot of these events are happening out of fear and ignorance and a lack of conversation. I don’t think it is fair that one person can use their fear and ignorance at the expense of other innocents.”
Nagim also went on to describe the importance of having an IAW especially with being on a non-secular Catholic campus.
“I think having IAW extremely important, especially on our campus because I think having these types of events will help inform other students of different faiths,” Nagim said. If students are educated then they won’t have this fear or hate of the unknown and we can all learn to live and understand our differences and be a united community.”
Hassan concluded by also sharing the importance of hosting IAW on a Catholic campus.
“Part of the college experience is to really take the time to define who you are as a person and we think that Islamic Awareness Week is a great way to allow students to connect with their faith on campus,” Hassan said. “Like every culture and religion, it’s important to have people who share similar beliefs around you in order to keep your faith strong.”
She went on to say that, aside from education, one of the goals of IAW is to help Muslim students feel proud and comfortable of their faith and, “what better way to show this through inviting their friends and teaching them about various aspects.”
Rhania Kamel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter @RhaniaKamel.