Muslim Student Association sponsors Islam Awareness Week
Courtney Becker | Tuesday, March 28, 2017
The Muslim Student Association (MSA) kicked off Islam Awareness Week on Monday by handing out hijabs on Fieldhouse Mall and teaching people how to tie them.
Sara Abdel Rahim, a senior and the president of MSA, said community members were more engaged in the event this year after experiencing it in years past.
“I think people loved the event last year,” she said. “Everyone is coming up and saying, ‘Hey, I still have my scarf from last year, can I grab another one? Can you teach me how to tie it a different way?’ So kind of building a foundation for the past couple of years and then having people remember it and tell people about it — it’s been really great to have people come and say, ‘I remember this from last year, and I want to do it again.’”
The week — which is co-sponsored by other groups such as the Gender Relations Center, Notre Dame International and Multicultural Student Programs and Services — serves as an opportunity for non-Muslim students to learn more about Islamic culture, Abdel Rahim said.
“I think it’s amazing. I wish Islam Awareness Week could be Islam Awareness Year, but we obviously don’t have funds and resources for that,” she said. “But I think, definitely, when people come up and ask me to teach them how to wear it or what does a hijab mean to [me], there’s definitely an amazing desire for the students on campus to learn about Islam and to get a better understanding of it. … Even though it is a majority-Catholic campus, if you do provide a venue and a platform for people to come and learn about it, they’ll definitely engage and do that — which is cool to see Notre Dame students doing.”
The MSA’s hijab day gave Abdel Rahim a chance to explain that to her, a hijab is twofold, she said.
“It’s a sense of modesty in the physical sense — so you do cover up your hair, and wear long sleeves and pants,” she said. “So you’re covering up your body so you’re not showing physical attributes of yourself, so when people get a chance to know Sara, then they can know that person for who they are and not how they look or their physical aspects such as their hair or how they dress.”
Abdel Rahim said this commonly offers a greater sense of empowerment to people who wear hijabs.
“But also, when you’re covered up — in a sense it’s more empowering because you get to go and engage and do all the things you want, and you’re not held back by what society’s vision of you is,” she said. “So there is a negative connotation to the headscarf, but there are so many amazing hijabis out there — people that wear headscarves — that are so empowered, and it doesn’t prevent them at all from doing the things that they love.”
Islam Awareness Week is also being celebrated at Saint Mary’s, Abdel Rahim said, as Tuesday’s scheduled event is a lecture at the College.
“It’s with a scholar named Michael Birkel,” she said. “He’s a professor at Earlham College and he wrote a book called ‘The Quran in Conversation.’ And he’s really cool about inter-religious dialogue because he talks about how anyone can be a guest in someone else’s religion, you just have to be willing to learn about it.”
The week also features what Abdel Rahim said is “the equivalent of a homily in Catholicism,” a “Quran Halaqah,” on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a person in MSA who has the whole Quran memorized, which is cool,” she said. “We do that in Islam, we memorize stories and verses from the Quran. And he’ll be taking a couple of verses and kind of placing them in context and describing them more — kind of like what a priest does during a homily after the readings in Mass.”
The week will conclude with the MSA’s Islam Awareness Week dinner Thursday — this year focusing on Islam through the ages — and a mosque tour Friday. Abdel Rahim said she and the MSA are happy for any community members to engage with Islam Awareness Week in any way.
“On behalf of MSA, we’re really blessed that we have a campus that’s able to sponsor events like this and to be able to put it on,” she said. “And we do look for people to engage more over the coming weeks and to ask questions, because we don’t think there’s anything that’s a bad question.”