Club seeks to educate UA on Islam
Sumaiyya Zehri (left), a pre-med senior, and Sarah Hemzawi (right), a pre-med sophomore, run the MSACA booth for Islamic Awareness Week on the UA Mall on Wednesday.
A UA club is on a mission to negate stereotypes and educate students on Islam this week.
The UA chapter of the Muslim Students Association has organized events for Islamic Awareness Week to share with students who want to learn more about the religion.
This year, the goal of Islam Awareness Week is to dispel misconceptions about Islam.
Azba Khan, secretary of the MSA and a junior studying Middle Eastern and North African studies and molecular and cellular biology, said she feels strongly about the role the MSA plays in spreading this awareness.
“It’s our responsibility,” Khan said. “We’re the representatives of the religion, so we’re trying to take that initiative and tell people what it is firsthand, tell our experiences as Muslims.”
On Tuesday, the club had a table set up on the UA Mall with a “Jeopardy!”-style game to test students’ knowledge of the details of Islam. Wednesday, which the club referred to as “Hijab Day,” had some more interactive events.
At the table on the Mall, club members passed out hijabs to any female students who were curious about their meaning and wanted to try one on. This was followed by a discussion later in the evening in the Louise F. Marshall building about the students’ experiences wearing the hijabs.
Khan said that she was very excited to see how women reacted to wearing the hijab.
“We’ve seen videos of people doing this … and we thought it was interesting because you see the reactions of girls once they see themselves [with the hijab],” Khan said, “and it’s really beautiful.”
Khan said that the club had also considered putting together a “flash prayer” in which Muslim students would come together at a certain time on the Mall and perform an Islamic prayer. However, Khan admitted that it might have been slightly controversial, and the club was unable to get clearance for the space to do so.
Khan said that the only other challenge she thought they faced was actually getting students to come to the table and ask questions.
“Sometimes, when you approach somebody, they think you’re converting them,” Khan said, “but really the purpose … is just to educate them.”
Taha Hasan, an aerospace engineering sophomore and the male vice president of the MSA, said that he thought Hijab Day was unique and hoped it would provide people with an opportunity to bond over something a little different.
Jessica Rech, a pre-business sophomore, was one student who volunteered to try on a hijab and wear it all day on Wednesday. She does not identify with Islam, but said that she had always been fascinated by Middle Eastern culture and wanted to learn more about it. Rech said that she had heard many of the stereotypes associated with wearing hijabs, but that she wanted to experience it for herself to see what it was truly like.
She said she had tried on a hijab for just a moment the previous day and already experienced discrimination from a group on campus handing out Bibles. Rech described a moment in which they handed a Bible to a student next to her, but turned away from her.
“It was like they didn’t even see me,” Rech said. “They saw my scarf.”
Rech said that she was also interested to see what her friends, who knew she was not a Muslim, would say when they saw her wearing the hijab.
Sumaiyya Zehri, a molecular and cellular biology senior and the female vice president of the MSA, said that she was excited for the hijab event. Zehri said that she has experienced discrimination as a result of wearing a hijab, so she is interested to see what experiences other students have.
“I’ve been called a terrorist from people just walking by,” Zehri said. “If you think every single Muslim is a terrorist, this country would not be here. There are so many Muslims here. I’m a part of this country. I’m an American.”