By: Miles McQuerrey, Contributing Writer
Whether it was the live performances, henna tattoos or authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, the diverse crowd found plenty to enjoy at Multicultural Night, hosted by the Muslim Student Association (MSA).
The event took place Thursday, April 16 in the University Union’s Potomac Lounge and acted as the capstone of Islam Awareness Week, which took place from April 13 to 16. Fittingly, the evening served two distinct purposes: To provide fun activities to students and debunk myths about the Muslim culture.
Russia native Alexandra Lariiciuc, an international studies major and sophomore, was drawn to the event to discover more about Muslim culture, particularly through her taste buds.
“I think it’s important to actually come out and go to different events because the more you know, the more you can understand,” she said. “The food here is the best out of all the international events.”
Dinner was catered by Quarry Bagel Café and featured Kofta, a lamb and beef meatball, Tabbouleh, a light tomato salad, hot pita bread and rice.
Senior Mohamed Khaial felt both a sense of honor and responsibility while co-hosting the event for the MSA.
“Tonight’s event is about having fun,” he said. “I guess if people see us having fun and acting normal, they’re going to change their perspective about us a little bit.”
Khaial and co-host Amr Rawi, a business finance major and sophomore, are both from Egypt and have found a home on Towson’s campus.
“I want to expose the club to everybody and let them know what Islam is all about and what the Middle East is all about rather than them hearing from the media,” Rawi said. “It’s all about peace and loving each other.”
Khaial and Rawi have strong emotional ties to both America and Egypt. They have made many diverse friendships at Towson and through their jobs. Even so, Khaial became choked up when discussing what he missed most about Egypt.
“I miss my friends,” he said.
Throughout the evening, a variety of performers took the stage to share their talents with the crowd. There was a violinist, stand-up comedian, models in a fashion show and several spoken word poets.
English major and sophomore John Gillespie delivered his fervent poem “Existential Crisis” to the audience, which grappled with a restless quest for identity and the perils of not achieving it. Although not Islamic, Gillespie, a black male, recognized universal obstacles that minorities face in striving for an accepted cultural identity.
“I feel like we connect the way all oppressed persons connect,” he said. “Islam phobia is similar to a phobia that a lot of black people have directed towards them when they’re walking down the street.”
While the event was predominantly about enjoying talented entertainers, there was a serious undertone. Each table raised a candle as a moment of silence was held for Trayvon Martin and the Chapel Hill tragedies.
“One of the main purposes of this event is to dedicate tonight to the people that have lost their lives,” President of the MSA and junior Anna Zafar said. “Violence and racism is what we’re fighting against tonight in a fun and interactive way.”
Zafar has personally experienced discrimination on and around Towson’s campus because of the hijab headscarf she wears. She described an instance where a man harassed her at Chipotle.
“It was me and a group of my friends, and some of us wear the head scarves, and he hid behind a bush and was taking pictures of us,” she said. “They’re just so ignorant. Because I face that I want to make a change and make people aware of what Muslims are really about.”
Sanaullah Kirmani has been the student advisor for the MSA for nearly 30 years. He urges anyone who is interested in Muslim culture, especially non-Muslims, to come to events like Multicultural Night.
“Muslims are a lot of fun,” he said. “Everything you read about them seems very serious, but once you join them, they sing, dance and tell jokes. They’re just a lot of fun.”