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Ottawa Islam Awareness Week: A Volunteer’s Take

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Bridge Building in Ottawa: Muslim Students in Action
By Abdiaziz Ahmed
University of Ottawa Student- Canada
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This event is an annual one that is put together by the Muslim Student Association in collaboration with over 150 dedicated volunteers.

It is an unfortunate reality that much of our intellectual discourse is shaped by mainstream media and not through interactions and discussions.

In recent years, Islam has been forced to burden the brunt of numerous irrational allegations smeared by pundits who seem to be more interested in cultivating a climate of hatred and reporting in an unbiased manner.

As a direct result of this, the public has become deluded into perceiving that the Islamic faith is one which is antithetical to peace and tolerance. One cannot blame the masses for this perception; rather the onus is upon adherents of the Islamic faith to try to rectify this grave fallacy that is prevalent in society.

Thus, the question becomes: What are Muslims doing to change this?

Volunteers in Action

One of the greatest fears which many of the volunteers seemed to hold before the commencement of IAW was the reaction that seemingly random individuals would have. Some younger volunteers were afraid of rejection while others felt that they would be harassing people.

The week from February 25 to March 1 marked Islam Awareness Week at the University of Ottawa campus.

This event is an annual one that is put together by the Muslim Student Association in collaboration with over 150 dedicated volunteers.

The mandate and purpose behind IAW is to try to understand and then subsequently clarify misconceptions which people may have regarding the Islamic faith.

An incredibly important concept to realize is that the goal behind this endeavor is not to try to propagate the faith or to earn conversions. Rather, the sole objective is to allow people to have the requisite information and mindset required in order to come to a fair conclusion about one's faith.

One of the greatest fears which many of the volunteers seemed to hold before the commencement of IAW was the reaction that seemingly random individuals would have. Some younger volunteers were afraid of rejection while others felt that they would be harassing people.

However, the reception of the general public to being approached was stupendous. Many people congratulated us for taking the initiative as well as for standing up for our principles and beliefs.

Another interesting thing to note was the candid honesty that was present in many of these discussions. The people who were approached did not hold back and questioned with vigor and passion.

There were many productive discussions revolving around terrorism, women’s rights as well as human rights in general.

This is incredibly positive because it indicates the creation of an environment where an individual feels comfortable enough to reveal their true perceptions and beliefs.

Finally, it was interesting to observe the community spirit that IAW fostered amongst the volunteers. During the duration of the week, we shared many of the same experiences. In his famous “Letter from Hajj”, Malcolm X remarked: “I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color”.

This sentiment was shared by many different people who passed by because they would remark that the volunteers seemed to be such a cohesive unit, irrespective of the tremendous physical manifestations of differences that were visible to the eye.

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Our society will flourish and prosper only after we all take an effort to understand each other and what we believe.

Four Shahadahs

As Muslims, we have been victimized for far too long in the media as well as in the political discourse of this nation. However, we further victimize ourselves by not engaging in action which reaches the masses.

We believe that our message is one of equity and social justice; concepts which have become anonymous in the modern world. We also firmly consider our message to be one which can bring the heart tranquility and peace if understood in the correct manner.

During the week of IAW, four individuals took the testimony of faith and entered into the Islamic family because someone was there to explain to them what Islam really was.

This is the power of IAW; it empowers an individual with the platform required to allow people to understand Islam properly.

Our society will flourish and prosper only after we all take an effort to understand each other and what we believe.

As a result of IAW, I can confidently say that the campus of the University of Ottawa is a better place.

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Related Links:
Ottawa Imam on The Great Barrier Against Sinning
Canada Muslims Honor Positive Citizens
‘Tolerant Islam’...Ottawa Imam’s Mission

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