By: Sarah Rowan, Assistant News Editor
Members of Towson University’s Muslim Student Association encouraged interfaith communication and interaction last week, April 11-15, in order to educate people about the true meaning of Islam and to break down stereotypes perpetuated in the media.
“This is an important initiative for us to show people, because if we don’t show people, there’s no way they’re going to know what Islam is really about,” MSA fundraising chair Osama Hassan said. “If they see the TV and it’s telling you that this is what Muslims are, and there’s no voice on campus… They’re just going to believe what they see.”
The week, Towson’s Islamic Awareness Week, consisted of five different events surrounding various topics in Islam.
On Monday, MSA hosted a Halaqah, a gathering to study Islam, in which guest speaker Sheikh Taha Khan spoke about the Quran. Audience members were invited to ask questions during a Q&A session after his speech.
Tuesday was “Hug a Muslim Day,” hosted in Freedom Square. MSA student members hugged random people walking by and invited them to interact and ask questions.
“The whole purpose of the event was to have face-to-face interactions with the students on campus and their fellow Muslim peers,” Hassan said.
With “My Jihad Is: The Struggle Within,” hosted on Wednesday, the MSA sought to teach audience members the true meaning of the word “jihad” in Islam.
According to Hassan and MSA Secretary Aisha Marfani, the word “jihad” in the media has been taken out of context to mean “holy war.” In the Quran, there is no word that translates to holy war. The word “jihad” means “struggle.”
“That was basically the purpose of the event, it was just to teach us that this is what jihad is,” Hassan said. “It’s a struggle within yourself and within your environment, and the word was taken out of context.”
Marfani stressed that while Islam is often portrayed as a religion of war, it is actually a religion of peace.
“It just gave light to the actual meaning of [jihad],” Marfani said.
The event was interfaith, and included speeches from MSA Advisor Sanaullah Kirmani, Newman Center Chaplain Father Matt Buening and Rabbi Paul Schneider, as well as discussions with current Muslim students.
Each speaker reflected on struggles that they have faced within their own religions, and participated in a Q&A session in which audience members could submit anonymous questions to the panel.
On Thursday, MSA hosted a Multicultural Night banquet in the West Village Commons Ballrooms that featured live performances, food, music and prayer. Marfani described it as a “fun” way to allow people to see MSA as a club on campus.
MSA Public Relations Coordinator Lyric Harris saw the event as an opportunity to showcase the many different cultures that Islam represents.
“You don’t have to be a certain race or gender…to be welcomed into Islam,” Harris said. “I learned that through my experience in researching Islam that you can be anything. It doesn’t matter. You can always be Muslim.”
On Friday, MSA held an open Jummah prayer in the Chesapeake Ballrooms. MSA has prayer every Friday, but for Islamic Awareness Week, they invited the whole campus to learn about the prayer and to watch over it while it happened.
According to Hassan, the goal of opening prayer to campus was to show people that Jummah prayer teaches peace, tolerance and respect for other people.