By Olivia Grasing
There’s one word that the members of the College’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) want you to remember this week: salam, or peace. This was theme of MSA’s Islam Awareness Week, which spanned from Tuesday, March 29, to Friday, April 1. The four-day celebration of Islam included a variety of events, such as a poetry slam, art gala, basketball tournament and prayer service.
The awareness week kicked off with a night of poetry, during which Muslim and non-Muslim performers were invited on stage to recite original poems that reflected powerful and introspective thoughts on religion. Those who spoke about Islam expressed their desire for others to relate to their religion through peace and happiness, since that is what they believe the Islamic faith is truly rooted in.
“We chose peace as a theme because we want everyone to know that the heart of Islam is peace,” senior chemistry major and MSA President Heba Jafri said. “What people see on the news unfortunately takes away from the true meaning of religion. We want to spread awareness of the core of Islam and that is peace.”
As the poems went on, it became clear that many members of MSA don’t feel Islam is to blame for secular problems. They debunked Islamic stereotypes through their words and advocated for Islam as a religion that promotes peace, not violence.
“With the hateful rhetoric spoken about Muslims in the media, I think it’s very important for people to gain knowledge about Islam,” Jafri said. “People often misunderstand or misjudge Muslims because of the what they hear or see, and I think Islam Awareness Week is a great opportunity for people to see what we are like and to learn about the religion and its values.”
The following day featured an art gala displaying the work of Faraz Khan, an artist-in-residence with the Arts Council of Princeton. Khan showed off his work and spoke eloquently about how color, beauty and inspiration are what Islamic art is all about.
Khan explained that he uses his work to demonstrate that art has substance and a pleasing aesthetic. His pieces usually contain Arabic calligraphy, which he says adds character and depth by creating patterns and conveying messages through the use of bold colors and alluring details.
“If it’s not beautiful, it’s not Islam art,” Khan said, as he showed off his artwork to a room full of onlookers. His passion signified the ability of art to both uplift and inspire people.
Through fine works, such as poetry and art, MSA was able to share Islam with the college community and challenge stereotypes regarding the religion.
Later in the week, the group held a “Hoops for Hope” event in tribute of the three Muslim victims of the devastating shooting that took place last year in Chapel Hill, N.C. Students were invited to play a game of basketball in their honor.
“(MSA) is an organization that brings out the best in me,” sophomore biology major and MSA Public Relations Chair Yaseen Ayuby said. “It’s really a tight-knit community and I’m grateful for that.”
The group put on a successful week of programming that brought people of all different religions together to celebrate the Islamic religion. Islam Awareness Week also allowed MSA to educate other members of the College about Islam and to share their passion for what is at the heart of the religion: peace.