At 12:50 p.m. last Friday, the Richter Library bell tower sounded, but passers-by heard something different than the normal hourly chime. Students and faculty squinted up at the tower, their interest piqued by the sound of a man chanting Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer.
The Islamic Society of UM [ISUM] came up with the idea to play Adhan on Friday afternoons this March as part of Islam Awareness Month.
According to Sahar Ullah, president of ISUM, the goal of Islam Awareness Month is primarily to promote awareness about Islam on campus.
“I find that Islam is usually presented as a religion devoid of an intellectual, cultural and artistic legacy,” Ullah said. “I think it would be a shame if on this campus students don’t know more about the religion of one-fifth of the world’s population – I feel an obligation to show people Islam’s multifaceted nature.”
The opening event for Islam Awareness Month was a presentation called “REEL Bad Muslims: Islam in the Media.” REL 400 students presented the research gathered last year on how Islam is presented in television shows, movies and documentaries. The presentation also included an interview of UM students to find out how much they knew about Islam.
“The reason why this was our opening event is that before we can educate about Islam, we have to clear up misinformation about it – a lot of people get their information from the media,” Ullah said.
Ullah said about 40 people attended the event, held in the UC International Lounge.
ISUM engineered the idea of Islam Awareness Month using the concept of Islam Awareness Week, which Muslim Student Associations at other universities celebrate.
The main focus of UM’s Muslim Student Association is to provide services for international Muslim students, such as a prayer room in which to conduct Friday prayers.
ISUM, on the other hand, aims to educate mainly American-born or raised Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam. Thus, ISUM took charge of Islam Awareness Week and protracted it into a more comprehensive Islam Awareness Month.
Highlights of the month ahead include a lecture by Yvonne Ridley, the British journalist captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan two years ago, and a lecture on the controversy regarding the veiling of Muslim women, given by Tayyibah Taylor, editor-in-chief and publisher of Azizah Magazine, the only magazine for Muslim women in America.
“I hope people leave the [Taylor] lecture knowing that Muslim women wear the veil because they choose to, not because they are oppressed,” Ullah said.
For more information about ISUM and Islam Awareness Month, contact Sahar Ullah at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.miami.edu/studorgs/ISUM.
Reeva Oza can be contacted at email@example.com.