To mark United Islam Awareness Week at Memorial, the Gazette caught up with the president of the Muslim Students’ Association at Memorial, Mahamudul Hasan.
Mr. Hasan, who is in his final year of a bachelor of engineering degree at Memorial, is inviting everyone to participate in the association’s special speaker series that will run until Friday, March 12.
Below, he talks about peace and spirituality, combatting misinformation about Islam, what participants can expect during United Islam Awareness Week and creating a “new narrative” about his faith.
MC: Why is it important to hold United Islam Awareness Week?
MH: United Islam Awareness Week (UIAW) is critical in response to rising Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism.
UIAW offers everyone a chance to learn more about the world’s fastest-growing religion and a faith community that is riddled with misinformation and misunderstanding often portrayed in the media.
“These conversations are just the beginning of more meaningful relationships.”
We are offering everyone the opportunity to learn what Islam teaches in its core principle, which is peace and spirituality throughout this week. Also, we want to voice and stand against any kinds of violence and terrorism activities that are often attributed to the religion of Islam.
MC: What do you hope the impact of the week’s events will have on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?
MH: We strongly believe and hope that this week’s events will lead to greater awareness and understanding about what Islam really teaches, leading to deeper, more meaningful conversations between our community and others.
We hope that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians walk away from this week’s events feeling they had their questions answered and learned something new, and that these conversations are just the beginning of more meaningful relationships and a better understanding of the religion.
Ultimately, our hope is that instances of Islamophobia begin to decline and that representations of Islam and Muslims are more accurate on campus, in media, and in daily discourse.
MC: What can attendees expect if they participate?
MH: Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in live, virtual booths where they can ask questions, share reflections and connect with Muslims across Canada sharing about their beliefs and practices.
We think attendees might be quite surprised by what they learn, as we are committed to creating a safe and welcoming virtual space for those in attendance to ask any questions they have about Islam.
“We are changing the narrative and perception of how Islam has often been viewed.”
Participants can also attend interview panels, keynotes lecture every evening at 8:30 p.m. (NST) and just visit the booth to witness other interactions and conversations taking place.
Throughout the day, students from different campuses are live discussing various interesting topics that anyone can attend.
MC: What will be the highlight of the week, do you think?
MH: It’s hard to choose, but the keynote lectures each evening are definitely a key highlight with topics ranging from the life of Malcolm X to the legacy of Black leaders in the Muslim community to Islamophobia to a riveting lecture about the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
Not only do we have world-renowned scholars from around the globe sharing their knowledge with us during these keynotes, but attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions at the end to learn more.
MC: What is the main message you would like the community to take away from United Islam Awareness Week?
MH: We hope that the community walks away from United Islam Awareness Week with a new narrative about Islam and Muslims.
Basically, we are changing the narrative and perception of how Islam has often been viewed through the participation of universities from the east coast to the west coast of Canada.
We hope that we can spark an interest in understanding the genuine and true message that Islam offers, as opposed to the socio-political rhetoric that is rampant today.
The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) at Memorial University is a student-based organization under MUNSU that was established in 1976. Its members aim to promote unity, educate and give back to the local community through a wide array of activities held each year. United Islam Awareness Week is a collaboration with four other Canadian universities.