This April, the Muslim Students Association is hosting their annual Islam Awareness Month to share the faith and traditions of Islam with the University community. Islam Awareness Month at the University features a variety of activities ranging from open prayer to moderated dialogues that will be held throughout Grounds. The MSA kicked off the month by painting Beta Bridge on April 7 and will end the month’s activities on April 29 with a Mindfulness in Islam discussion held in the Multicultural Student Center.
According to the MSA’s Facebook event for the month, everyone — regardless of faith tradition — is welcome to participate in the events.
Al Ahmed, a fourth-year Curry student and MSA president, said the events were planned with a goal of community outreach at the center and hopes that students will be receptive to these efforts.
“Every year the MSA at UVA hosts Islam Awareness Month to engage with the larger UVA community,” Ahmed said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “We hope that this month and our efforts make an impact on the community and that anyone who attends our events enjoys them, grows, and comes away with a different more informed perspective.”
Mazzen Shalaby, a second-year College student and MSA member, said the events have historically been received favorably by University students.
“In the past, we've received positive responses from the community and we hope that trend continues and grows throughout this month,” Shalaby said in an email to The Cavalier Daily.
According to Shalaby, it is important to the MSA that they have a balance of educational and cultural events when they plan Islam Awareness Month.
“When it comes to choosing events, we try to balance our goals of educating others about Islam and its tenets, and showcasing the rich and diverse traditions and cultures and traditions that Muslims belong to (both in our community and around the world),” Shalaby said.
One such activity with an educational goal is known as “Flowers from the Prophet.” Held on April 16, MSA students stood at the Whispering Wall and hand out flowers with sayings from the Prophet Muhammad on them.
Another example of an educational event is “Fast-a-Thon,” to be held on April 18. During “Fast-a-Thon,” MSA members will invite members of the University community to join them in solidarity by fasting for one day to learn Ramadan and better understand the fasting that takes place during the holiday.
An example of an event focused on the cultural aspects of Islam is the “Islam Around the World Showcase,” which was held April 13 in 1515, and is one of Ahmed’s most-anticipated events of the month. The event features poetry, music and traditional dance among other cultural performances and elements.
“The Islam Around the World Cultural Showcase is always a highlight,” Ahmed said. “We just had it this past Saturday and it's always fun because we get a chance to see how diverse our Muslim community is here on grounds as well as enjoy great ethnic food.”
According to Shalaby, having an Islam Awareness Month is especially important in today’s cultural climate in which anti-Muslim sentiments have turned into violence, such as in New Zealand where a terrorist attack targeting Muslims recently occurred. Student Council recently unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Muslim community at the University and around the world following the massacre, with Shalaby as one of the main voices behind the resolution.
“Islam Awareness initiatives give us the chance to show others first hand what Islam is and to foster understanding and tolerance, a mission that is unfortunately increasingly important in light of the bigotry and harmful rhetoric directed at Muslims around the world,” said Shalaby.