Awareness week bridges UK’s gaps

Kernel Editorial Board

On a typical college campus, one would imagine cultural awareness and tolerance would increase dramatically as students from small towns across the U.S. integrate in one place and have an opportunity to see different people first-hand. However this isn’t always the case and cultural diversity is something UK has been struggling with throughout the years and is trying desperately to improve.

One group of students, the Muslim Student Association, wanted to help bring their religion and culture to the forefront to help dispel rumors and misconceptions they deal with on a daily basis. From Feb. 22 to 26, the MSA hosted a week of panels and lectures like “Perspectives on American Islam,” “The Qur’an in Christian Thought” and “A Taste of the Muslim World,” held at Blazer Cafe.

“We’re not going out there and trying to preach and telling you [that] you need to convert,” said Heba Suleiman, a psychology junior and next year’s MSA president in a Feb. 23 Kernel article. “We just want to spread the word (of Islam). If anyone has a question, we always encourage them to come ask us or come to our meetings just to hear what we do … ”

This group came together to make a big impact on how they’re viewed on campus. These students saw an opportunity to inform and educate the campus on something they may be unaware of, and they should be praised for that.

Suleiman spoke to the Kernel about one of the identifiers of Muslim women — the hijab. The hijab, in general, is the modesty or covering, Suleiman said in the Feb. 23 Kernel article, and is something people tend to misunderstand.

“The reactions I got after I started wearing it were actually pretty intense,” she said of growing up in Elizabethtown, Ky. “ … children would make fun of me and call me names like ‘towel head’ or things like that, so it was hard not knowing how to respond or give them a response that would actually stump their reactions, but I got used to it.”

Suleiman said the ignorance to her wearing hijab has improved since coming to UK, partly because people are curious about it and ask her questions rather than simply make fun of her.

Combating UK’s cultural ignorance starts with education and programming like Islamic Awareness Week. The university and other student groups should follow in the MSA’s footsteps and help make UK aware of the diverse and unique students on campus.