The University of Rhode Island Muslim Student Association (MSA) decided to present an Islamic Awareness Week in order to fight the ignorance and preconceived notions people on campus may have about the religion.
“Our goal is just for people to learn about Islam and learn that we’re peaceful citizens of the world who don’t have any ill-will towards anyone else,” said Samir Yusuf, president of MSA.
While not a national event, Yusuf said that MSA and other organizations across the nation have created these weeks to spread awareness. “It’s just something we feel is necessary,” said Yusuf.
They have three events planned, two of which have already passed. On Tuesday, March 21, MSA set up a booth in the memorial union called “Meet a Muslim” where they gave out free munchkins to students who stopped by.
“Having this booth was having an opportunity for people to meet a Muslim face to face, have a conversation, ask some questions, and we just wanted to put smiles on people’s faces and reinforce that we are regular Americans, college students,” said Yusuf.
Their second event on Wednesday, March 22, which gave students the ability to explore different things about Islam. They had booths set up in the Atrium at the memorial union on different aspects of muslim culture, like Henna, trying on a Hijab, calligraphy, listening to the Quran, and more. They wanted to hopefully educate people in a nice and fun way.
“MSA is very warm and welcoming. I’ve learned a lot about the Muslim religion,” said Marie Loua, a freshman communications and political science major who was getting a Henna tattoo. “Culture appreciation not cultural appropriation.”
Their third event is planned for Friday, March 25, called “Overcoming Division” with Safwan Sheikh. This will involve a speech on overcoming division and becoming united followed by a free catered dinner at the Hardge Forum in the Multicultural Student Services Center.
“We want to break any stigmas students across campus may have about Muslims,” said Hamna Imtiaz, a sophomore pharmacy student, who is a member of MSA.
Yusuf explains that he personally has never felt any hatred towards him or his religion at URI but still feels that there is a need to continue to educate the community. “There’s definitely a lot of ignorance in regards to Islam and it’s definitely very important to educate people so that they know that we’re a peaceful group,” said Yusuf.
Yusuf suggests that the best way to educate yourself and to become less ignorant of the different opinions and cultures around you is to have an open mind. “People sometimes will only hang out with people with the same viewpoints as them so I think it’s important that people go to these types of events, maybe a little bit out of their comfort zone,” he said. “More now than ever I have realized how polarizing this country is, the viewpoints, politics, religion, everything. The only way to really bridge those gaps is through learning about other people’s cultures and [opinions].”
Yusuf and the other members of MSA are hopeful that this week and more events like it will introduce more students to new cultural things. “Hopefully through these positive interactions we’re able to reduce some of the ignorance and preconceived notions,” said Yusuf.