Muslim student group kicks off week of awareness-raising events

By Rebecca Sweeney

The Muslim Student Association is hosting a weeklong event to increase students’ awareness about Islam. The week is in response to a chain e-mail vilifying Islam that Student Government President Nick Phelps forwarded to an SG listserv in January.

The week, themed “Unity through Understanding,” is designed to give students the opportunity to ask questions about Islam and debunk stereotypes, said Fatimah Shalash, vice president of MSA.

“People are afraid of the unknown or of what is different,” said Shalash, a family and consumer science senior. “Combined with anti-Muslim images and news found in the media, that creates feelings of fear or apprehension towards Muslims.”

Shalash said the e-mail was a “step backward from the direction that the university was heading,” but many positive changes have resulted.

“With the e-mail came overwhelming support and a new vigor to tackle the cultural divide that has climbed to the top of student leadership,” she said.

MSA was established in 1971 and works to give the campus community a better understanding of Islam by lecturing in classrooms, promoting discussions about Islam, participating in volunteer activities and hosting other events, Shalash said.

Shalash said Islam should no longer be viewed as a foreign concept, but as an important contributor to society.

“It is important for students to know that Muslims make up a part of the social fabric that is UK, and that our beliefs should bring us closer, not distance us,” Shalash said.

Islam Awareness Week begins today with “Does God Exist?: Arguments from Both Sides,” sponsored by Student Activities Board in conjunction with Campus Crusade for Christ and the American Atheists Association. The event is in the Student Center Small Ballroom at 7:30 p.m.

MSA and SG will host a charity reception tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Department of Landscape Architecture’s E.S. Good Barn on University Drive. Free food and refreshments will be served, and donations will be collected to help those affected by Cyclone Sidr, which struck Bangladesh in 2007.

On Wednesday, students will discuss their perspectives on Jesus and religion at “Unity: Jesus in Islam and Christianity” at 7:30 p.m. in the Lexmark Room of the Main Building.

“Islam 101” will be held Thursday at noon in the Student Center to help students learn basic facts about Islam.

Thursday is also “Bring Your Friend to a MSA Meeting” day to show students what the association is about and how to get involved. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in room 211 of the Student Center.