With events ranging from Monday’s master’s tea about “FUNdamentalist Films” to Friday’s TGIJ (Thank God it’s Jum’a), an open sermon and prayer, Islamic Awareness Week has drawn record turnout this year from students interested in learning about the Muslim faith.
Muslim Student Association President Ahmed Makani ’07 said turnout at this year’s events has been more than double the attendance records from previous years, far exceeding the group’s expectations. The week serves as a means of educating the student body about issues that are sometimes presented in an biased fashion, he said.
“Especially in the times we are in right now, I feel a greater inter-faith dialogue is necessary in order to remove misconceptions among people’s minds,” Makani said “There are many insensitivities that exist in the minds of many due to ignorance about the practices or beliefs of a very important group.”
Covering issues as diverse as women’s rights, blasphemy and controversial cartoons, the MSA said it hopes to dispute common stereotypes while asking Yalies to consider sensitive and relevant societal issues.
Members of other religious groups said the exposure and heightened visibility during this week may help to counteract Muslim stereotypes by portraying the diversity within Islam. Emphasizing that many Yalies will eventually work in positions in public service, Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06 said it is important to make sure that Yalies recognize the contemporary issues involved with Islam.
“It’s probably a good thing to try to make people more aware of what Islam means to a variety of people,” he said. “It’s somewhat out of the mainstream in America today.”
Amy Broadbent ’07, who attended a film screening of “Me and My Mosque” Tuesday, said her favorite part of the event was the post-screening discussion in which people presented differing opinions on the issue of physical barriers between men and women, along with other concerns facing Muslim women today. She said the film itself also presented a balanced viewpoint regarding the place of men and women in mosques even though the filmmaker made it clear that she was against the use of barriers.
“The perspective was critical but internal, so that the viewer did not feel at all like she was criticizing Islam; she was criticizing ignorance of Islam,” Broadbent said. “It is refreshing to see how someone deeply committed to her faith might also see problems in its practice.”
Currently, Muslims at Yale form an active and open community with a strong presence among students and in the administration, said Sohaib Sultan, the University’s Muslim chaplain. The size of the Muslim community relative to other religious groups influences its visibility, he said, and this week may help to change campus awareness regarding the Islamic faith.
“I hope that this year’s Islamic Awareness Week will help challenge some of the perceptions that people have about Islam and that it opens their eyes to the peaceful, loving, just nature of our faith,” Sultan said.
In addition to this week’s events and other activities, such as an annual Ramadan banquet, Sultan said the community hosts seminars on Islamic Spirituality and Qur’anic Studies every Wednesday and Friday night.
“It is imperative for non-Muslims who desire to live as educated citizens of the world to learn more about the faith that is practiced by over 1.4 billion Muslim worldwide,” he said. “And it is imperative for the Muslim students to provide open, intellectual forums to explain their faith to others.”
Islamic Awareness Week continues today with a master’s tea given by Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, the editor of a collection of essays by American Muslim women titled “Living Islam Out Loud,” at 4 p.m. in Davenport College. In addition, a faculty panel at 7:30 p.m. will be held to discuss the recent controversy surrounding the late-September publishing of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.