Islam Awareness Week confronts misconceptions The Sheaf February 9, 2017 12:00 am News RONALD TRAN As misconceptions about Muslim people hit a critical level in the United States with President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, one student group at the University of Saskatchewan is working to create open dialogue and counter Islamophobia. Islam Awareness Week, presented by the U of S Muslim Students’ Association from Jan. 23 to 27 on campus, introduced a series of talks to increase knowledge about Muslim students and the wider Muslim community. Topics discussed at the five lectures, one each evening, included the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad, hijab, mental health and love. Mhmoud Essalah, a first-year medical student and the president of the MSA, explains that the main purpose of the event was to increase understanding. “I think that everyone should have a basis at least [of] understanding what Muslims believe and what not. There are a lot of misconceptions out there. A lot ofpeople think some negative things about Muslims, so we’ve tried to bring discussion back to what we believe is fundamental beliefs.” International experts, including academics and imams from Canada, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Egypt, gave students an opportunity to learn from real people rather than from the media. Jeren Hapyzova, fourth-year engineering major and executive member of the MSA for five years, was actively involved in organizing the event. She explains that students who want to know more about Muslim beliefs and practices can visit the Islamic Association of Saskatoon, open five days a week. On campus, students can contact the MSA by sending an email or visiting their Facebook page. Hapyzova also shares why the MSA has worked to promote the awareness week at the U of S. “We’re in a learning environment and also we’re taking classes with people with many backgrounds. I realize that this open discussion about Islam would bring people into understanding when they deal with [Muslim students] on a daily basis. For example, if they know ahead of time what Islam is about when they work with us in a school setting or class setting, they’d know better where we’re coming from, why we are here instead of just opinions about us through media,” Hapyzova said. Essalah explains that the MSA co-ordinated conversations with attendees at their events throughout the week and encouraged them to ask questions about core Muslim beliefs. “Islam is not a major geopolitical socioeconomic phenomenon. We would like people to ask very deep questions: what Muslims believe about God, what do they believe about life after death … There are billions of Muslims in the world, so it is important that people understand who they are,” Essalah said. He also provides some specifics on the important topics discussed during the event. “There’s one particular [lecture], ‘The Real Talk,’ that disposes the level of misconceptions and myths out there. We talk about Islam’s solutions to many everyday problems. On [Jan. 23], we talked about the role of mental health in Islam. What is the most practical thing Muslims do in terms of what they believe and practice that can solve the mental health problems that we’re facing today. [On Jan. 25], we talked about the scripts and scripture of Quran verses, every day scripts like culture and tradition.” Essalah recognizes that Muslim students are involved in all areas of the university and he believes that the event gave these students the chance to openly communicate with the public and their peers. “We hope to promote dialogue; one of those things we really pride ourselves in is questions and answers,” Essalah said. “There are no questions that people aren’t allowed to ask or anything like that. They ask such questions to have a dialogue to connect with Muslims. We understand and are aware of the fact that we are part of this community, just like everyone else.” — Image: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor Stupid idea What about the fact that the pillars of faith promote violence against non-believers? HZR Violence is allowable under a certain context. Everything exists in a context, since the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet over a span of many years, with the verses relating to what the situation was at that particular time. So once a verse is taken out of context, it’s meaning is lost. Stupid idea Violence is never acceptable, and this is my issue with islam in the west. You can not walk around a country like Canada thinking violence is okay sometimes. The Qur’an is a book, one book against millions of other books. I don’t care if violence is okay in Harry Potter. Your religion does not make violence okay. HZR Oh, you’re right. Violence is never acceptable. Even if someone is attacking us with a knife, we should submit to their attack and not lift a finger against them. Or if we see someone getting beaten up, we shouldn’t try to stop the attacker. Yep. Totally logical. Stupid idea Violence is never acceptable, doesn’t mean it can’t be necessary. We should lament the fact that violence was implemented, not encourage it. HZR I completely agree that it is something to be lamented, and never encouraged. My question here is how does the Qur’an promote it? As far as I understand, everything in the Qur’an exists in a context. When we lose the contextual setting, we lose the meaning. So where in the Qur’an is violence promoted in a free-for-all, limitless, and grossly unwarranted fashion? That’s what I’d like to know. Just wondering if someone knows something that I missed when accepting the religion. Stupid idea Just because Mohammed didn’t shout “free for all” doesn’t mean he wasn’t a war mongering, slave abusing, polyamorous possibility fictional character, that stood for violence against men, women, and children. You believe in a fictional story, it doesn’t matter if Allah said free for all in the quran, your fictional book doesn’t apply to real life law. HZR Again, where is your evidence that Muhammad was all these things you’re claiming him to be? Bring it to the table please. HZR And I mean this truly, genuinely and without reservation that if someone proved to me that Islam was an illogical, unjust, and barbaric religion, I would reject it in a heartbeat. And without a doubt, I would’ve done just that if I didn’t find the one sect that made logical sense out of the religion. With all due respect, I find the majority of other interpretations to be misguided and not based in evidence. Stupid idea Read the Quran, its illogical, and the rule is if two passages dont work together, take the new one. You are a fool if you think a religion is logical. HZR What do you mean if two passages don’t work together? Surely I’d be a fool to accept any religion without thoroughly studying it based on its merits first. I’ll say it again that every verse in the Qur’an is revealed under a specific context. No two verses in the Qur’an are contradictory if you can understand this underlying condition. But I don’t blame you for what your impression is. I myself had a very negative impression of Islam, but that was because I kept looking at what Muslims were doing. When I studied it based on the actual Qur’an and the practice of the prophet, I saw a really different story, and I saw that there was literally only one sect in the world that was reflecting that story. Stupid idea I don’t care what you believe, whether that is a magical book about a character named allah or a character named harry potter. If you hit someone in Canada, i hope you see jail time. Your beliefs doesn’t allow you to break the law. deal with the fact that if you can find context to hit you have a violent evil book. HZR Well obviously if you hit someone and you’re found guilty, you’ll face jail time. Who’s arguing that? And what part of my beliefs don’t coincide with the law? You can find context to hit anyone out of anything. That’s like saying money is evil. It’s what you make of it bro. Or gurl. Whatever you may be! FleurDeLibre What’s that certain context? Just curious at what you would interpret to be justifiable violence by Muslims against non-believers. HZR That certain context would be self-defense. My understanding is that even the Holy Prophet never waged an offensive battle. It’s not about believers or unbelievers. It’s about using common sense to know what extent you have to go to in order to protect yourself. FleurDeLibre Your understanding is wrong. The Prophet and the subsequent leaders of the faith actively encouraged open war to spread Islam. How do you think North Africa was converted? Your excuse is a bad one. Self-defence is justified, sure. But that’s not what’s being talked about, unless of course you’re saying that Islam misconstrues the idea of self-defence to justify attacking non-believers. Spare me any other response that tries to make a very aggressive proselytizing religion out to be a victim of violence against it. Christianity did it too. Both Christians and Muslims love to make themselves out to be some sort of group of saints that never did anything wrong, as if both groups didn’t actively invade, attack, and torture entire cultures to force them to convert. Stupid idea Exactly. All Abrahamic religions are based on violence, slaves, murder, and death to the nonbeliever. The real true believers believe every word and kill in its name. The rest pretend that because they don’t kill, the religion is good. Topical logic from a theist: If tigers eat meat and kill animals, they are bad. This tiger at the zoo is forced to not kill, so it is good. Therefore all tigers are good and don’t kill. HZR Could you please tell me how Islam is based on violence, slaves, murder and death to the nonbeliever? Again, I’m genuinely interested in knowing because although I studied Islam thoroughly before accepting it, my knowledge is not perfect. And the only sources I can accept are the Qur’an and the practice of the Holy Prophet. Not his subsequent followers or Caliphs. HZR Could you please tell me when the Holy Prophet actively invaded, attacked, and tortured cultures and FORCED them to convert? I’m genuinely interested in knowing. I studied Islam thoroughly before accepting it, but that doesn’t mean my knowledge is perfect. Stupid idea If you studied Islam, then you are lying about not knowing what I am talking about. And if you don’t know the Quran is based on the death of the infidel, you are lying about studying. HZR Again, where is the evidence for what you’re saying? I’m super curious because I did study Islam for nearly five years before accepting it.