The Muslim Student Organization will be hosting a number of events for Islam Awareness Week, beginning Monday.
The week will begin with a student and faculty panel regarding Muslims and the media Monday night.
MSO spokesman Mahir Khan said a major goal of the week is to educate students on how different Islam is in comparison to how the media portrays it.
“Islam Awareness Week is a really important part of what we do on this campus because the MSO’s intent isn’t that we’re trying to convert people,” Khan said. “The point of MSO is to raise awareness of what Islam is and that it’s not what you see on the news.”
MSO President Arwa Mohammad said the week is a great opportunity for Muslims to present Islam from a first-person point of view.
“Sometimes people think, ‘Oh I know Islam, I know what it’s about,' but they don’t know it through the first-person experience of someone who actually practices it here in Columbia or America,” Mohammad said.
MSO will continue Islam Awareness Week with the screening of the film "Bilal’s Stand" on Tuesday and a “Women in Islam Panel” on Wednesday. Wednesday will also be “Pink Hijab Day” to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“(Bilal’s Stand) is about a young African-American Muslim living in Detroit, and basically it’s just about his life and what he has to deal with,” Mohammad said. “I think it’s useful to see Muslims struggle with the same things that everyone else does and how their faith is just one way that they can help to make sense of everything.”
MSO Education Chairman Shafi Lodhi said the movie helps to accurately represent African Americans in Islam.
“A lot of people don’t realize how large of a population there is of African American and black Muslims in America,” Lodhi said. “Of the sum total of the Muslim-American population, about 20 to 30 percent are African Americans.”
Khan said the main event of Islam Awareness Week is keynote speaker Imam Suhaib Webb, a nationally known Muslim activist who has studied with many of the most prominent scholars of Islam in America.
Born William Webb in Oklahoma, he struggled with gang involvement during his early teens before converting to Islam. He traveled to Egypt in 2004 to study Islam at Al-Azhar University. On Friday, Webb will address how Islam shaped his life.
“Imam Suhaib Webb is a really interesting figure just because a lot of Muslim youth actually identify with him and are able to connect with him on a different level than they might with somebody who grew up overseas,” Mohammad said.
Overall, Islam Awareness Week gives MSO the chance to educate the MU community on the realities of Islam that aren’t covered by the media, Mohammad said.
“Sometimes we see a lot of images or stories that people think present Islam, but this is just an opportunity (to present) what the majority of Muslims actually do or actually believe,” Mohammad said. “This is really an opportunity for them to have their voices heard.”
Khan said this chance to provide an accurate portrayal of Islam is what MSO is seeking as an organization.
“Islam Awareness week is the easiest way to accomplish our mission statement of showing people what Islam in America really is,” Khan said.