By: Maty Drame
Every spring, students from the City College’s Muslim organizations host Islamic Awareness Week to educate people on Islam and rectify some of the misconceptions regarding the Abrahamic faith. And this spring, April 16-19, was no different.
The CUNY-wide effort is organized by Muslim associations at various campuses, including Queens College, Hunter College and Brooklyn College throughout the spring semester.
Here at CCNY, members of the Women in Islam club and the Muslim Student Organization collaborated to bring food, fun and activities to enlighten staff, faculty and students on campus about Islam and address any questions they might have.
“We try to inform people about what Islam is and try to get them to understand [it] from a Muslim perspective instead of just hearing everything from the media,” explained Ahmad Lamada, the president of the Muslim Student Organization.
To kickstart the event, organizers set up dessert and pastry tables at the NAC to encourage conversations. Anyone who asked questions about Islam would get some dessert or pastry at the “Ice Cream Social” or “Doughnuts and Da’wah” stations.
“This provides a platform for the CCNY community to come and ask us anything they have been wondering about that they want to ask their Muslim friends but are scared to,” said Sama El Sayed, the vice president of Women in Islam.
The organizers also used ice breaker games such as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Minute to Win It to engage people and have them test their basic knowledge of Islam by asking questions like ones about the five pillars of the faith and the world geography as it relates to Muslims.
Many students who stopped by found it to be effective. Jan Siolkowski, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, liked the use of entertainment to educate. “I think it gives a good impression of the culture and the religion as well as the people who represent it,” he stated. He said he had some knowledge about Islam but also learned a few things from the event such as the practice of ablution prior to prayers.
Ahsan Fayyaz, a Muslim student who visited the event, appreciated the effort from his community. “I think it’s a great idea to let people know what the reality about Islam is. People have a lot of misconceptions,” he said.
Fayyaz added that he had never experienced islamophobia until he left Pakistan for America a year ago, but he’s optimistic. “I think most people understand that Muslims are peaceful people,” he said.
Some visitors asked challenging political questions such as, “how do you feel about Trump?” Still there was never any impression of confrontation.
Volunteer Esma E. was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. “Everyone has been extremely open minded and had genuine questions and was willing to listen,“ she said. Some people she interacted with had no knowledge of Islam, while others learned surprising new things like the importance of matters such as the environment in the faith. “That’s one of the reasons for this week,” Esma added,“ to let them know the beauty of Islam and how peaceful it is as a religion.”
The Muslim student organizers plan to host another event, Charity week, during the fall semester.