Muslim students to fight stereotypes in first ‘Faithbusters’ installment

By Wesley Yonts

Despite its name, the Faithbusters discussion series isn’t about disproving religion.

Instead, organizers of the series hope to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding religions that Americans typically know little about. Islam is the topic of the first Faithbusters installment, tonight at 6:30 in the W.T. Young Library Auditorium.

“We hope to educate people on Islam and ourselves,” said Yahya Ahmed, president of the Muslim Student Association, whose members will be discussing their faith at the event.

“When we conduct these kinds of dialogues, we really emphasize the point that there are no controversial questions,” said Ahmed, a biology and Islamic studies senior. “There’s nothing that’s off-limits or off-target. The more questions you have, the better understanding you can come to.”

After the discussion, the traditional Islamic dessert ashure, or Noah’s pudding, will be served in the gallery next door.

Although the event will serve to highlight common misconceptions surrounding Islam, it is also intended to educate students on many of the basic beliefs and tenants of the religion, such as the five daily prayers, fasting during the month of Ramadan and the hajj, or pilgrimage, to the holy city of Mecca.

“As a Muslim, every question is like, ‘Where did you hear that?’ Especially if it’s like, ‘Do you guys worship the moon god?’ ” Ahmed said. “There’s so much nonsense and so the reaction of, ‘That’s an unusual question,’ that kind of left me long ago.”

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world today, in addition to being the fastest-growing one, which makes events like this particularly important, said Matt Longacre, a management sophomore and MSA member who will be on the panel tonight. The less people know, the less they are able to interact with the world around them, he said.

“People have this view that somehow terrorism or violence is inherently connected to Islam, and that really isn’t the case,” Longacre said.

The Faithbusters series, which is sponsored by Student Activities Board, will continue throughout the semester with a lecture on Scientology later this month, followed by discussions of Judaism and evolution in April.

“The goal is to enlighten and educate students, and we’re not trying to convert them to a certain religion — it’s just to bring light to myths or questions you may have about religion,” said Meghan Bostic, the director of engaging issues for the Student Activities Board.