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June 16, 2024

JHUMA events raise religious awareness

By AMANDA AUBLE | November 14, 2013

This week, the Hopkins Muslim Association (JHUMA) is sponsoring Islamic Awareness Week in order to broaden Hopkins students’ understanding of the Islamic religion.

Since the 1960s, the Muslim Association at Hopkins has existed as a faith-based group. Currently composed of Hopkins students as well as Baltimore community members, the JHUMA is the University’s resource for the Muslim community on campus.

“JHUMA’s mission is to meet the religious needs of Muslims on campus, to sustain a welcoming and warm community open to anyone from any background regardless of religious affiliation, and to engage in the larger Hopkins and Baltimore community through community service and campus wide events,” JHUMA President Gaida Mahgoub wrote in an email to The News Letter.

This specific JHUMA event series is designed to expand Hopkins students’ religious awareness beyond what is projected in the media.

“I’d like for my fellow students to be able to distinguish stereotypes about Islam on their own when reading the news or surfing the Internet. I’d like for my fellow students to understand Islam and not fall into Islamophobia,” Mahgoub wrote.

The activities and seminars planned are examples of lessons not always fostered through academics.

“Aside from not having, for example, a Middle East department or not having departments that really teach classes on religion specifically, it’s kind of our place to come in and explain and teach people outside of a classroom setting,” Hopkins junior and JHUMA member Basmah Nada said.

The first events that are scheduled for this week involve exploration of traditional Islamic customs and a debunking of Islamic stereotypes.

“Not necessarily misconceptions, but people don’t really know enough about [Islam] and they might make assumptions here or there, so it’s just like ‘let’s clear it up for you,’” Nada said.

Monday morning, members of JHUMA distributed free hot chocolate and discussed fun facts about Islam. Written on the cups was the slogan: “It’s not a race, it’s a way of life.”

Tuesday night, the Muslim students held a panel discussing the significance of “hijab,” the traditional head veil worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty. After the discussion, participants learned how to style these veils.

This event aimed to explain one of Islam’s more controversial traditions that students do not always understand without advanced knowledge.

“I think the biggest misconception is that people think Islam is an oppressive religion. As a Muslim woman and as a Hijabi (one who wears the headscarf), I can speak first hand that I’ve only seen Islam empower me when culture and social pressure tried to limit me,” Mahgoub said. “Wearing the headscarf since I was 12 and by my own choice, I felt that it has allowed me to develop into a strong, independent woman who is not over-conscious about her body or looks but rather wants people to admire her for her voice, her character, and her inner beauty.”

As the week comes to a close, the Muslim Association plans to merge their events with other faith groups in an effort to promote unity on campus.

This evening, the association will hold an Interfaith Fast-a-Thon designed not only to explore the Islamic tradition of fasting, but also other religions’ practices when it comes to fasting. This is an important aspect of the Islamic religion through celebrations like Ramadan, a month of fasting from dawn till sunset.

Students will be encouraged to donate any money that would usually be put towards purchasing food and instead use the funds to support local charities.

A final sermon will be held on Friday night in the Interfaith Center titled “Bringing Purpose to Our Lives, to Our Time.” Hopkins students of all faiths are welcome to attend the discussion.

Beyond this week’s schedule of events, the members of JHUMA hope to continue spreading awareness.

“We also just want our presence on campus to be known so if [students] ever have questions, whether it’s during this week or outside of this week, just know we’re here and we’d love to talk with people from different religions and different backgrounds,” sophomore Maysa Elsheikh said.

In the future, the JHUMA plans to sponsor more events in the spring like a Muslim Mosaic. For now, the group continues to hold smaller activities like ice-skating, game nights, bowling and Friday prayer services.

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