Islamic students spread awareness of their faith

By KATY WILNER | October 11, 2018

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Events during Islamic Awareness Week aimed to end stereotypes about the Islamic faith.

The JHU Muslim Student Association (JHUMA) is hosting Islamic Awareness Week 2018 from Oct. 8 to Oct. 12. The organization planned events that they hoped would educate the student body about aspects of Islam, including activities such as trying on a hijab and a free dinner at the FFC which would feature foods from the Islamic community. The group will also hold public Friday prayers, Jummah, on Keyser Quad on Oct. 12.

JHUMA is a student-run religious group on campus which is open to all students, regardless of their religion. JHUMA President Zoya Sattar said that the organization planned this week to help educate the student body about the Islamic religion. She stated that many of the events organized are targeted at addressing certain stereotypes about the faith.

“We work really hard to dispel all the negative stereotypes and sentiments people might have about Muslims because of the media or the news,” Sattar said. “The events are geared towards deliberately emphasizing the peaceful nature of Islam and just our humanity in general.”

JHUMA held an event called Flowers on the Quad on Wednesday. Members of the group stood on Gilman Quad and gave flowers to passing students with notes that had peaceful quotes from the Prophet Muhammad. 

Sattar said that the inspiration for Flowers on the Quad came from an event the Hopkins Graduate Muslim Student Association (JHGMSA) organized last year. After the election of U.S. President Donald J. Trump and his subsequent ban on travel into the U.S. from many predominantly Muslim countries, JHGMSA went to the Inner Harbor and distributed flowers in a similar manner.

“We printed out sayings from the prophet, peace be upon him, talking about the peaceful nature of Muslims to get over the whole negative stereotype that we’re violent or we’re terrorists,” Sattar said.

JHUMA picked quotes that have relevance to specific stereotypes about the faith, including the treatment of women. She noted that many of these prejudices stem from a misunderstanding of the differences between Islamic culture and Islamic religion.

“One of the quotes that I specifically picked was ‘Treat a woman with kindness’ because a lot of people think that Islamic countries are very backwards and anti-women, which can be true, but that has to do with culture and not the religion itself,” Sattar said.

At Monday’s event, “Ask a Muslim/Try on a Hijab for a Donut,” JHUMA Treasurer Mishel Malik expressed similar sentiments about the differences between culture and religion. 

“The Hijab, it’s not cultural, it’s very religious actually,” she said. “It was worn by the Prophet’s wives, so we believe that the best way to live your life is to basically emulate and imitate the Prophet. To best do that, we should cover like the women did at that time.”

At this event, students were encouraged to try on a Hijab and to ask the students who were volunteering questions about their religion. Layla Al-Zubi, a member of JHUMA, said that through this event, they hoped to change some students’ preconceived notions about the hijab. 

“We thought that the hijab often comes under a lot of scrutiny in media, and this would be a good way to educate people about the hijab, to get a feel for it, to see themselves in it and that it’s not really that scary,” she said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about it being oppressive and whatnot, and we wanted to clear that up.”

Another event JHUMA is hosting this week on Thursday, Oct. 11 is titled Muslims Read Mean Tweets and will be held in the Charles Commons multipurpose room. The group hosted a similar event last year and recorded a short film of Muslim people reading offensive tweets about their religion, which received thousands of views on Facebook. 

Thursday’s event will be followed by a discussion about the reasons why people are tweeting these derogatory things about the religion, as well as how Muslim students respond to them. 

Although JHUMA has organized Islamic Awareness Week for years, Sattar said that one thing they focused on this year was to create shorter, more accessible events.

“The events this year are quick, come-and-go, where people can learn a little about Islam in the process,” she said. “To me, considering that the Hopkins campus is so busy, having quick events is one of the most effective ways to get people to come.”

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