Breaking barriers during Islam Awareness Week
Mount Royal students aim to provide a greater understanding of the faith
By Amber McLinden, Staff Writer
Mount Royal’s Islam Awareness Week sought to familiarize people with Islam and what it means to be a Muslim.
The Muslim Students’ Association on campus set up a week of events, March 13-17, to let others who aren’t part of the faith experience some of its practices. In light of recent islamophobic occurrences both here in Calgary and internationally, students say the week-long event is more important than ever.
Hadeel Abdel-Nabi, a Muslim student at the “Meet a Muslim” booth says the week is all about de-stigmatizing and helping people learn.
“People are scared of things that they don’t understand and I feel like this whole week has just been about spreading awareness and spreading understanding about what the religion is or what we’re doing to sort of [mitigate] that fear and help people realize that we’re normal,” he says.
The week of events is meant to reflect the five pillars of Islam with various activities that invite everybody to join in and witness. “Helping Henna Hand,” “Fasting not Furious,” “Prayer or Yoga?,” “Meet a Muslim,” and “5 Pillars of Islam” were some events that took place.
Abdel-Nabi and fellow student Moneet Gill were both at the “Meet a Muslim” booth, an activity set up for people to come and ask questions about their faith.
Gill is Sikh but considering becoming Islam.
“I’m leaning towards Islam, so I’m like looking into the faith and researching and just learning how their religion is,”Gill says.
The “Meet a Muslim” event sought to give people a way to ask questions and understand, not necessarily about Islam itself but to understand those who practice.
Abdel-Nabi says connecting Muslims and non-Muslims is a step towards erasing islamophobia.
“There’s been a lot of graffiti around the school recently, in and around the main building and the smoking section, a lot of Islamophobic messages going around, so it’s really important to sort of connect with people outside of the Muslim community, because I know for myself especially I tend to stay within the Muslim community,” Abdel-Nabi says.
Reaching out to others and making connections can break down the barriers that stop people from understanding each other, the women both say. They admit they have trouble doing this at times, and think it’s something that’s worth investing more time into.
“I don’t really branch out, so I think that may be an issue,” says Abdel-Nabi. “People don’t really know what’s going on with us, who we are, that we’re normal kids or just trying to get by in university. I think it’s important to connect with others.”