Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Islam Awareness Week at GW

One of the more interesting classes I'm taking this semester (besides SMPA 194, of course!) is Sufism (REL 165), which has been a very pleasant experience thus far since the course does not impose the religion that it seeks to explain. For an atheist, this has been immensely agreeable as well as educational, since I find the subject pretty fascinating without feeling like a victim of proselytizing devotees.

In fact, the course motivated me to attend several events that have been held as part of Islam Awareness Week, sponsored by GW's Muslim Students Association. This is a student organization that in my judgment does not receive much attention - I did not really know that it existed until a few days ago. Going through the Hatchet archives over the last year, I noticed that the MSA is always consulted or mentioned in the midst of a controversy, but that there is little reporting about the group itself, its aims and the fact that it has something to offer besides being the go-to-group whenever there is a hate-based incident on campus.

Plus, the events, though not "poorly" attended, still did not attract an overwhelming amount of people (and most were official members of the organization, not outsiders such as myself).

One can tell that this concern is recognized by the MSA because it is reflected in its stated aims:
This year, the GWMSA will try to gear its events, policies, and interactions in order to accomplish two goals:

1) Create a family amongst MSA members.

2) Establish the MSA as an influential organization.
I probably could have had a much more insane Saturday night, but going to Professor Mohammed Faghfoory's lecture on the Islamic view of Christ as a prophet made for a very interesting and much more appealing evening than the sound of beer bottles being thrown into the Thurston courtyard. Last night, Professor Faghfoory lectured again, this time on Rumi, the legendary Persian poet and mystic whose writings have now extensively penetrated the Western world (Rumi, in fact, is the top best-selling poet in the West). This second event was accompanied by a wonderful concert of Persian music reminiscent of the mystical tradition of Islam.

Events like these are great for increasing the amount of cross-cultural communication on campus in a serious way because they seek to achieve a credible, interfaith dialogue without applying absurdly ignorant terms like "Islamofascism", which was created by right-wingers in a kneejerk, visceral reaction to events of terrorism and is not any "ideology" in and of itself. In light of campus controversies that occurred earlier this year, I think that going to events such as those sponsored by the MSA (which go beyond the scope of the Hatchet's coverage) is all-around healthy, apart from being very educational.

It is short notice, but the last event of Islam Awareness Week will be held tonight. It is entitled "Muslims can be funny, too!" and will feature a comic from the "Allah Made Me Funny" tour who will present his material. 7 PM, Marvin Center Amphitheater, if anyone wants to go (I would myself, but chemistry lab will be calling...grr). You can request more information by emailing the MSA directly.

More information about the organization itself can be found by reading its Constitution. I would encourage everyone to check it out, and note that it firmly establishes the organization as a "non-profit and non-political" one.

I want to end on a simple note by just expressing my hope that the MSA does in fact further develop its base and get more recognition on campus. Its role should not be relegated to that of a consultant that is called upon whenever a controversy arises that has something to do with Islam; instead, it should be able to fulfill its stated purpose of being an organization that seeks to educate the wider community about the religion of Islam as well as the Islamic culture that has flourished for centuries around it. Perhaps it will be able to do this if people begin to look beyond the Hatchet's coverage, which is implicitly divisive in the way that it neglects to profile what the MSA *really* has to offer (instead, it chooses only to call upon the MSA for its views on controversies). Of course the MSA may express its opposition towards hate speech (this is a dear responsibility), but there is much more to the organization and I hope that this will be noticed in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A "Muslims can be funny, too" event? Should I bring my Mohamad cartoons so we can all share a laugh?