By: Victor Jorges/Assistant News Director
In an effort to better educate the student body on Islam and dispel misconceptions about the religion, the University’s Muslim Student Association is holding a week’s worth of education events.
From Monday, March 18 to Friday, March 22, the Muslim Student Association will be hosting their annual Islamic Awareness Week in order to reach out to everyone on campus and share what their religion is about.
The president of MSA, Labib Ahmed, is hopeful that this week-long event will impact not only members of the University who practice Islam, but many more.
“We want to promote peace among all faiths, all students, and everyone on campus,” said Ahmed.
This event takes place every year, however, they are implementing a new event this year to delineate one of the most fundamental elements of this religion: fasting.
“We’re doing our first ever fast-a-thon. We’ll fast for the whole day and then we come together to break our fast and we have a banquet at night to talk about why we fast,” said Ahmed. “This year we are going to fundraise for an organization called ‘Project Downtown’ that feeds the homeless every Friday.”
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast for 30 days. Ahmed said that one of the purposes for the fast-a-thon is to promote the health benefits of fasting and how it can be mentally, spiritually and emotionally beneficial.
“It’s good for your health. It reduces your cholesterol. Even if you get hungry throughout the day, it teaches you patience. It teaches you how to be more aware of your surroundings,” said Ahmed. “It’s definitely good for spiritual healing.”
Ahmed has completed the fasting process for the full 30 days in the past. He says his experience was full of spiritual enlightenment.
The organization is expecting around 150 students to participate during this particular event.
“We are trying to reach out to other non-muslims on campus to fast with us and see what the experience is like,” said Ahmed.
Additional events include Monday’s “Isha under the Stars” which is a night of prayer. Using the university’s telescope, they hope to pay tribute to their ancestors of their religion including astrologists and astronomists.
Tuesday’s “Human Library” will feature books with the names of MSA members and spark conversation about Islam.
On Wednesday, they will perform “Jummah”, which is their Friday prayer. After this prayer, MSA will come together to create hygiene kits to donate in Downtown Miami.
The end goal, according to Ahmed, is to simply share what their religion is like and give insight on everyday Muslim life.
Some of the events that the organization is putting together are aiming to provide a modern twist on the traditional components of the Islam religion.
“We have to find a way to relate to other people around us, especially to people that don’t understand our religion. If we explain the ancient aspect of it, people won’t understand,” said Ahmed. “If we are modern and creative, it creates a way for people to connect easier and it’s an easier way for people to understand.”
In order to avoid running into financial problems, the organization plans ahead in order to ensure that they can provide sufficient activities for the university.
“Funds have always been a challenge for us,” said Ahmed. “That’s why we start planning beforehand so we can make sure that our budget works hand in hand with the events that we have.”
In regards to the current political climate regarding individuals of this religion, Ahmed says that this series of events will hopefully break down some stereotypes and assumptions.
“We want to prevent the misconceptions and make people aware of what we actually do,” said Ahmed. “[The programming] will definitely not affect us in a negative way because we live in a very diverse environment, especially in Miami.”
He believes they won’t “receive a lot of hate” and is hopeful that a lot of people will be interested in learning about this religion.
“I think people will love it because we have a lot of activities planned. I think it will be a great way for us to come together and get to know one another,” said Ahmed. “We are all one at the end of the day – we are all God’s creations.”