Muslim Students Association fosters religious education

Wesley Hough-Cornwell

Lawrence’s newly founded
Muslim Students Association of
Lawrence hosted its kick-off Cook-
In on the fourth floor of Hiett
Sunday evening, Jan. 24. The group
had existed in a previous incarnation
a few years ago, but died out
after most of its members graduated
in 2007.
The group officially formed
this past September after the celebration
of Eid, one of the biggest
Muslim holidays. Many of the
Muslim students on campus, the
majority of them international students,
gathered with friends and
host families to celebrate this holiday.
It was here that the students
decided to re-form the MSA on
campus.
Naveed Islam explained that
the Lawrence campus actually has
a large Muslim population, and
that he is hoping the MSA will
grow and provide for the needs of
the Muslim students on campus.
For instance, when students
observe a fast early in the year,
Islam said he hoped to speak with
Bon Appétit to get specially catered
foods and re-arrange serving times
so students would correctly be
able to participate in fasting.
Islam also hopes that MSA will
be a good informational resource
for students who do not know
much about Islamic religion and
culture. Recognizing the stigma
that sometimes accompanies his
religion, Naveed said that one of
the group’s missions is to clear up
myths that have negatively branded
Muslims.
Tamanna Hossain and Aimen
Khan reiterated the comments
made by Islam.
Khan stressed the need for
“Islam to be portrayed in the right
light.” In order to do so, according
to Hossain, people must look
beyond the media portrayals of
the religion.
Hossain also wanted to make
clear that despite overwhelming
beliefs that Muslim women are
forced to wear certain clothes or
are genitally mutilated, these stereotypes
only account for a small
percentage of women, and cannot
and should not be applied to
everyone.
Both Hossain and Khan commented
on statements posted on
campus by another group that
strictly associated the concept
of “jihad” with killing. After getting
past the shock of the misuse
and misunderstanding of “jihad,”
Hossain and Khan realized the
importance of educating students
on campus about their religion
and culture.
To combat such stereotypes,
members of MSA posted signs on
the walls of the fourth floor lounge
Sunday night. Each poster had a
myth followed by a clarifying fact
about the religion and culture.
Some showed the group’s humor
and ability to recognize the absurdity
of claims about the religion.
One such poster stated the
following: “Myth: All Muslim men
have four wives. Reality: No, even
Muslims don’t have stamina high
enough.”
Other posters, however, addressed issues with a more serious tone, allowing members of the group to respond to misconceptions on campus: “Myth: Jihad means killing non-Muslims. Reality: Jihad means “struggle.” The greatest Jihad is battling your own demons.”
Islam explained that the Cook-In, which attracted more than 50 attendees, was a great way to “make a big deal about MSA,” and to promote the group to both Muslims and non-Muslims on campus.

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