Letter: Why Islam Awareness Week is necessary on college campuses


ows_147562250712923In the age of the “Muslim Ban” and increased Islamophobic hate crimes, Islam is at the forefront of political discourse. Although Muslims are at the center of attention in the media, the public and even at the dinner table, they are rarely involved in these discussions. From conservatives who try to restrict Muslims from entering the United States to liberals who strive to “save” Muslim women, debates and conversations about Muslims occur regularly, but Muslims are not being invited. Islam is discussed by CNN and Fox News, who constantly perpetuate false stereotypes and homogenize Muslims. Although we like to think university campuses are a space for critical thinking and open discourse, the ideas that are pushed by the mainstream media still make their way to schools like the University of Minnesota.

On our campus, there have been several instances of Muslims being targeted. In early November 2016, the Muslim Students Association’s panel on the Washington Avenue Bridge was vandalized with “ISIS” written boldly across the Islamic calligraphy. Just a few weeks earlier, several Muslim Students were personally targeted and had their names and information posted on flyers around campus. Muslim students have reported being harassed on the streets of Stadium Village.

Many false claims about Islam made on the news and by people in positions of power are echoed on campus, having a wider impact on students pursuing ambitious careers in many diverse fields. With the constant negative stereotypes of Muslims, spectators often take these claims as the truth. With disproportionately limited access to positions in media and political power, Muslims are being told what they believe in and what their religion is.



Islamic community at Arizona State University plans interfaith events after anti-Islamic incident at local mosque

2e9d4a8b-e9ff-4eaf-9617-ed83ad12301e.sized-1000x1000The Muslim Students’ Association at ASU and the Islamic Community Center of Tempe have organized several “interfaith love” events after two women were charged with felony burglary and a possible hate crime after they posted a video of themselves and their children opening the community center mosque’s gate, taking pamphlets and flyers and insulting Islam.

Two days after the event, the ICC held an interfaith “Love and Coffee” event inviting non-Muslims into the mosque and helping to educate them about the Islamic faith. According to Ahmad Al-Akoum, the interfaith and outreach director at ICC, there were over 200 people in attendance.

Al-Akoum was emotional describing the event and the support the mosque has received from the community.

“We wanted to bring as much love in the face of the hate and bigotry, and it was overwhelming,” Al-Akoum said. “It was a big, beautiful display of love and tolerance and understanding. I believe we got our message out.”

Johnny Martin, a religious studies senior and founder of Sun Devils Are Better Together, is a white American Muslim who converted to the religion. He said the viewpoints of the women who attacked the mosque are familiar to him.

“I have family members who have the same Islamophobia that would compel someone to do something so drastic and disrespectful,” Martin said. “This is something that terrorizes the Islamic community.”

MSA is organizing an Islam Awareness Week that includes several interfaith events where non-Muslims can learn about the Islamic faith. MSA hopes the events will help destigmatize Islam.


For the Archbishop of Kirkuk, young Christians and Muslims are the engine to rebuild Iraq


The new generation is the true foundation on which to rebuild after years of divisions, violence and extremism, says Mgr Yousif Thoma Mirkis who met 700 university students from Mosul, lodged in Kirkuk during the Islamic State rule. Two young men from Mosul, one Christian and one Muslim, shot a video telling the story of a friendship that is stronger than the jihadi madness.

KIRKUK: Rebuilding Iraq, after years of wars, extremism, divisions and violence culminating in the rise of the Islamic State, which is down but not yet out, must be based “on the young, who are the basis on which to build the future,” said Mgr Yousif Thoma Mirkis, archbishop of Kirkuk, northern Iraq.

The prelate recently met with a group of students from the University of Mosul who were lodged in his diocese when the Islamic State controlled the city.

In a context of “social strife and devastations that have struck streets, houses, places of worship and cultural centres”, the University of Mosul “has resumed activities trying to secure a future for its students,” the archbishop said.

For him, the new generation is the starting point to revive Iraq’s social, economic and cultural fabric, torn by conflicts and divisions over identity and sectarianism.

Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed that young people play a leading role in building a “healthier and more supportive” society.

The pontiff is set to meet with a group of over 300 young people from all over the world, who will be in the Vatican from 19 to 24 March to discuss the issues that will be on the agenda of next year’s Synod of Bishops, dedicated precisely to new generations.

At this meeting, participants will present their experiences and their requests to Pope Francis, for both Catholics but also young people from other religions or no religion.


Christians, Jews and Muslims unite to push for assault rifle ban

0222marylandassaultweapons01A movement to ban assault rifles involving representatives from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities was launched in a church on Thursday in Portland, Oregon, with clerics saying youths – many of whom have been protesting for gun control – will drive the campaign.

Interfaith religious leaders in Portland said they aim to get enough signatures on petitions to put a ban on assault weapons before voters, in the November election, in a statewide ballot.

There has been some movement in just a few other states in the wake of the February 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people, including:

– In Delaware, Governor John Carney on 23 February called for state lawmakers to ban the sale of assault-style rifles, saying military-style weapons like the rifle used in Florida have no place in the hands of civilians. Legislation is now being drafted.

– In California, legislation is proposed that would expand the definition of an assault weapon to include most semi-automatic rifles bigger than a .22. But that would require them to be licenced like assault weapons, not banned.



Christians and Muslims join forces to feed homeless in downtown Montreal


On the third Saturday of every month, members of St. George’s Anglican Church and the Imani Community Centre in Little Burgundy come together to fill brown paper bags with homemade shawarma, oranges and bottles of water.

Then the volunteers walk around the downtown core, handing out meals to the city’s homeless.

It’s an initiative that was born out of a shared desire to do something good and foster an interfaith connection, said Rev. Steven Mackison.

Meals to the street

Dozens of volunteers from both the Muslim and Christian communities in Montreal come together once a month to make food and serve it to the city’s less fortunate. (CBC)

His description of the early interactions between the two faith groups conjures images of a nervous first date.

The congregation of St. George’s invited members of the Imani Community Centre over for a get-together.

“We met for the first time here, all on pins and needles, trying to be our best and most polite possible selves,” he said, “And it went very well.”

The Imani Community Centre reciprocated, hosting the Anglican worshippers. By pure happenstance, it was the same day as the Quebec City mosque shooting that killed six men.


These historical women of Islam epitomize strength and leadership

kopftuchWomen’s History Month focuses on honoring the sacrifice, bravery and leadership of the many women who have impacted the world as we know it. In Islam, the role of a woman can become controversial. Many times the practice of social customs gets confused for religious obligations. This can be detrimental not only for the overall view of Islam, especially in the Western world, but also for Muslims themselves, who may be receiving a skewed and ultimately incorrect practice of Islam.

When considering the role of women, we should always look to our most perfect example, our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the relationship he had with his wives. More often than not, we think only of men when considering important figures in Islam and their role in securing Islam in this world. However, there were many Muslim women who also heavily contributed to the success, spread and overall beauty of this religion. The Prophet’s (SAW) wives were the beginning, but certainly not the end of this long strain of empowering and inspirational role models.

These historical women of Islam serve as guidance to us in strength, empowerment and leadership:

Amongst all the Prophet’s (SAW) wives, Khadija is one of the most well-known, even in the Western world. Khadija bint Khuwaylid was the first wife of the Prophet (SAW) and was the only one to gift him with children. Beyond carrying his lineage, Khadija helped the Prophet (SAW) become known through her established business. She was respected and well known amongst the people of her time, however, her biggest contribution to Islam was reassuring the Prophet (SAW) and pushing him to accept the message he received from the Angel Jibreel to read to the people. Khadija was the first woman to ever convert to Islam and her confidence and reassurance in his message allowed the Prophet to gain courage and carry out the difficulty that was establishing the religion of Islam.



 I need to be willing to make some changes in how I think about “them.” It’s time for us to say “we,” not “we” and “them.”‘

Father Thomas Ryan,

The third annual National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue took place March 6-8 at the University of St. Mary of the Lake outside Chicago, and focused on the theme of “One God, One Humanity: Confronting Religious Prejudice.” In his opening remarks, the Muslim co-chair Dr. Sayyid Syeed observed how historically Catholics have ruled Muslims in different countries, or vice versa, but that “today, in North America, being neighbors is a reality, and it’s critical for us to develop a vision so that people in other countries can find hope for their future.”680x450_Box_Pilot_18163

In her opening address, Muslim educator Maria Khani from Orange County, California, said “We can do more than just have a meal together and talk. I need to be willing to make some changes in how I think about ‘them.’ It’s time for us to say ‘we,’ not ‘we’ and ‘them.'”

Khani observed that a statement of Dr. Martin Luther King fits Christians and Muslims today: “People fail to get along because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

She noted that ignorance often leads to a deadly cycle: Ignorance to fear. Fear to hate. Hate to violence. Violence to war. War to isolation. “It all starts from ignorance,” she said; “let’s get to know one another. Peace is not just the absence of war, but the presence of harmony.”