CAIRO – For years, the campus building of Canada’s University of Windsor has been hosting Islamic awareness week, allowing its Muslim students to present a true message about their faith and dispel media misconceptions.
“This whole week of events is meant to counteract the negative depictions of Islam,” Hanan Khaled, Muslim Student Association (MSA) executive member told Windsor Star.
“Our dedicated volunteers are there to explain what Islam is all about to those who have any questions,” Khaled added.
Held at the CAW student centre, the event from March 11 to 15 will include displays, literature and presentations about Islam.
The first day of the Awareness Week, which opened on Tuesday, March 11, included presentations titled “Why I Became a Muslim” by four reverts who shared their own experiences.
On Thursday, a lecture by Munir El-Kassem will illustrate the unique features of the Islamic scriptures under the title “Qur'an: A Light Amidst the Darkness,” at Vanier Hall's Winclare A room at 6 pm.
“Our goal is to raise awareness and be available to address negative perceptions,” Rima Khaled, the director of the annual Awareness Week, told Windsor Star.
“There are a lot of misconceptions because of the media but we’re here to say that we are normal, just like you,” added Khaled who stands amid the displays and information booths at the event.
The director of the annual cultural event argued that many people have a negative image of Islam believing that it oppresses women's rights.
“We have the whole set of rights and freedoms,” she said.
Khaled refuted the allegations that say Muslim women are obligated to cover and wear hijab.
“We choose to wear the hijab.” Khaled stated.
“Many people believe women are forced to wear the hijab and are oppressed,” she said.
“That’s a hot topic but it’s completely not true. It’s not a way to dress, it’s a way to act and has to do with character and attitude. It encompasses so much,” she added.
Organizers of the event has stressed that it doesn't aim to “proselytize” students.
“That’s definitely not the case,” Khaled, the director of the event, said.
“It’s not our job. We are here answer questions and make people more aware,” she explained.
Trying hijab for the first time at the interactive Islamic event, a third year music and history student described it as a form of “modesty”.
“It is good to understand the real complete meaning and not see it as a form of oppression,” Sarah Mitchell, the music and history student, said.
“It’s a form of modesty. Men and women are seen as equals and responsible. There is a lot of ignorance about Islam. I find it very interesting.
“I don’t really believe in anything. I’m agnostic … But we need to be respectful to all, accepting and understanding,” Mitchell added.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
According to the organizers, the event received overwhelming positive feedbacks and was frequently visited by open minded people.
Yet, there are some negative responses from other students who opposed the cultural event.
“There are some who just come to attack,” Khaled said.
“They do not come to learn. It’s the way you handled it.
“You need to talk respectfully and professionally. We’ve had people yell. We don’t yell back.
“But most people are open minded and just want to learn about the faith.”
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.
A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.
Interfaith events usually help in correcting misconceptions about Muslims which resulted in a sharp increase in anti-Muslim views among Canadians.
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