April 19, 2019 | 73° F

Hundreds of Rutgers students participated in Islam Awareness Week outside of Brower Commons

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) organized Islam Awareness Week to encourage Rutgers students to become more informed about the Islamic faith.

Last week, students had the opportunity to partake in "Islam Awareness Week" (IAW), an annual event on campus that celebrates the Islamic religion.

The event was organized by the Rutgers Muslim Student Association (RUMSA) and was held in a tent outside Brower Commons from Monday to Thursday.

Throughout the week, students who stopped by the tent could avail themselves of amenities provided by RUMSA — free food, henna tattoos, informational pamphlets on Islam, pocket-sized Qurans translated to English and more were made available.

RUMSA volunteers were also in attendance to encourage curiosity and answer student questions pertaining to Islam. 

At night, different Islamic scholars gave speeches outside the tent on topics ranging from the Quran to original pieces performed by students. Speeches were open to anyone within earshot.

After Thursday night’s speech, RUMSA members cleared out the tent, and "Islam Awareness Week" concluded.

Hadear Seliman, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and president of the RUMSA’s Roots Initiative, said she thought the event was a success.

“The weather wasn’t good for most of the days, but a lot of people still came to the tent,” Seliman said. “A lot of people still took food, played activities, and during the end of the day, a lot of people would come (listen) to the speakers.”

Seliman said the popularity of speakers was particularly noticeable.

“We’d have like 200 people or so, and the food would run out,” she said. “It would just be done. So I would say (those were) … pretty successful events.”

Two of the primary objectives of "Islam Awareness Week" were to prompt meaningful conversations and spur interest in the Islamic faith and culture, according to the event’s Facebook page.

These objectives were accomplished, Seliman said.

“I saw really, really good discussions,” she said. “People looked like they were satisfied leaving the tent. They left with pamphlets and some left with even … a small Quran.”

Habibah Arshad, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and vice president of the RUMSA’s Roots Initiative, said prior to "Islam Awareness Week" there were some concerns within the RUMSA about how the event would be received by students.

“We were kind of nervous, I think that we would have like disruptions or … protesting,” she said. (But) it just went really smoothly, and there was nothing of that sort.”

Habibah Arshad said she thought "Islam Awareness Week" helped some students see past negative stereotypes.

“I feel like people left with a more positive image about Islam … (and) about the Muslim community at Rutgers,” Habibah Arshad said.

Ghayoor Arshad, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the speaker contact head for "Islam Awareness Week," said certain students showed an exceptional interest in the Islamic faith.

“We actually had a couple of people that, upon visiting the tent, afterwards, they said, ‘You know what? We actually want to become a part of your faith. We want to become Muslims,’” Ghayoor Arshad said.

Occurrences such as these underscored the broad-mindedness of the student body, Ghayoor Arshad said.

“Just that alone could be a testament that we could hold up and say that people were coming and not only understanding but (also) accepting the ideas that we were kind of putting out there,” he said.

Ghayoor Arshad said one thing in particular he liked about "Islam Awareness Week" was that it did not only focus on faith.

The event was also an opportunity for students to socialize and connect with one another in ways unrelated to religion, Ghayoor Arshad said.

“A lot of (volunteers) who were at the tent told me that they had 20, 30, (and) 40-minute conversations with people, and they didn’t talk about Islam at all,” he said. “They would just talk about life.”

Ghayoor Arshad said he had a similar experience during Wednesday night’s speech given by Imam Khalid Latif, executive director and chaplain for the Islamic Center and New York University.

Latif’s speech, which focused more on community building than Islam, drew a surprisingly large crowd, Ghayoor Arshad said.

“I looked around and it was just kind of very awe-inspiring to see (everybody),” he said. “That moment wasn’t about IAW, and it wasn’t about the tent with the Qurans. It was just people coming and listening to a guy talking about community.”

Ghayoor Arshad said "Islam Awareness Week" is important and will continue to be held annually because it offers a forum that allows people who have questions about Islam to get their answers directly from Muslims, rather than questionable secondhand sources.

“(People) can walk up to someone who’s wearing a headscarf or who has a beard and say, ‘This is what I heard about you. Tell me if I’m right, or tell me if I’m wrong,’” he said. “And those people can then have a conversation.”

Nicholas Simon is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. He is a staff writer for The Daily Targum.

Nicholas Simon

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