Beginning today, universities across the nation will participate in National Islamic Awareness Month, giving students a chance to learn and ask questions about the Islamic culture.
USF’s Muslim student organizations are preparing a month of activities including lectures, classes and cultural displays to give USF students the opportunity to learn more about Muslims.
Bisher Tarabishy, president for USF’s Muslim Student Association, said people often have common stereotypes of the Islamic culture, and the goal this month is to educate the public.
“Many people have lots of misconceptions of Islam, what it is and what it says,” Tarabishy said. “It is important to clear up those misconceptions so people won’t act on them and make stupid decisions.”
Tarabishy said one way people may get different thoughts about the Islamic culture is by watching the news or hearing about the negative. Tarabishy said, the idea that Islam mistreats women or that Islam is a violent religion are stereotypes about the culture.
“We want to present the true face of Islam,” Tarabishy said. “The purpose of this month is to educate.”
Today, the kick-off event will start at Martin Luther King Plaza, where students from MSA will pass out Islamic literature, give short speeches and answer questions about Islam. MSA plans to speak out about Islam at a different site on campus each week.
A class called Introduction to Islam will also be offered to the public on Tuesday in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, Room 006, located in the basement, at 5 p.m.
Tarabishy said with this month also being Black Emphasis Month, MSA will have an African-American Muslim speaker to talk about Islam in black history and about Islam’s role in Africa during the slave trades.
Tarabishy said it is important that the nation learn about Muslims as well because they are becoming leaders of communities.
“It is important they (public) understand a force that is so significant in today’s world,” Tarabishy said. “These people lead our community.”
Sisters United Muslim Association, a Muslim student organization for women, will also be adding events to Islamic Awareness Month.
Jenan Kurdi Biuk, president for SUMA, said the month of awareness began in 1995, and the organization is planning to be creative this year with an event called The Path to Islam. The event, which will be held in the MLK Plaza Feb. 28, will display posters and items that symbolize the steps people take when they become a Muslim.
“We want to show people who convert to Muslim the path they take,” Biuk said, “such as the Five Pillars and the different beliefs.”
Biuk said the purpose is to give students an insight into what Muslims are about and let them feel comfortable enough to ask questions about the culture. Biuk said many people often have questions about the attire Muslim women wear.
Biuk said attire such as the hijab, a scarf that covers the head, identifies her as a Muslim because it is part of her culture.
“The hijab is something that represents me as a Muslim,” Biuk said. “People might have questions and don’t know where to go with them. I want them to understand what we really do.”
Biuk said she and other Muslims would rather have people ask questions so they can explain the meaning of their attire to the public.
“I don’t want people to feel they don’t know us,” she said.SUMA will also participate in Multicultural Day, an event in which students bring food from different nations. Biuk said SUMA will bring Muslim food for people to taste while they can learn aside from stereotypes about the culture.
“We want to take away from the stereotypes that Muslims are from the Arab nation,” Biuk said. “This will put everyone in a comfortable atmosphere to ask questions.”
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