For the first time, Boston College’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) is hosting Islamic Awareness Week Mar. 14 to Mar. 18.
Although the national political atmosphere surrounding this year’s elections is heated and arguably hostile toward Islam, the same cannot be said for the BC community, according to Ahad Arshad, president of MSA and CSOM ’16.
“I have never really faced any stereotyping or ignorance or hatred, at least not to my face. I can’t think of anyone who has done or said anything Islamophobic,” Arshad said. “I was here as a freshman when the Boston Marathon bombing happened. Even after that, when we were all up in the lounge watching the news all night and when it was revealed that these two brothers were Muslim, I remember thinking like ‘Oh, not again, I’m going to have to explain myself and have to tolerate passing stares or whatever.’ But it really just never really happened. There was a lot more support than pointing fingers.”
MSA began six years ago at BC with the goal of trying to educate people about Islam, as well as bringing together Muslims on campus. According to Arshad, most of the work that MSA has done has been in collaboration with Campus Ministry, as interfaith dialogue is important to both groups.
“I hope people can start to see Islam as a religion of peace. I hope the week will educate people, unite people, build bridges, and also I just hope it’s fun for everyone.”
—Ahad Arshad, president of MSA and CSOM ’16
The idea for Islamic Awareness Week came from researching other colleges’ MSAs, in which most chapters did either weeklong or month-long awareness events.
The week features lectures, presentations, art, free henna tattoos, chai, open questions, and more. The first event, which took place on Mar. 15, was a lecture by professor Jonathan Bloom that focused on the relevance of Islamic art in society.
“Given that this is a Catholic university, and most students are Catholic, what better topic for Muslims to engage students with than someone as revered as Jesus?” Arshad said.
On Mar. 16, MSA set up snacks and chai on O’Neill Plaza from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and answered any questions that students had.
On Mar. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., MSA will be set up again on the O’Neill Plaza, this time with hijabs ready for anyone to try on. This event is focused on teaching students about women in Islam.
“A lot of people want to stereotype and say that Islam oppresses women and makes them cover their hair, or something like that,” Arshad said. “But obviously there are women who do it in their own free will, and it’s better if people can just see that. It eliminates that fear factor, like that ‘Oh this is so foreign to me, I’ve never seen that before.’ If you see it on campus, you know girls wearing hijabs and talking openly about it and how they’ve made that choice on their own, independently, it definitely makes it less alien.”
On Friday at 1 p.m., MSA invites everyone to its weekly prayer in the Multi-Faith Center, which is attached to 66 Commonwealth Ave., to learn more about Islam, listen to a sermon, and hear its weekly congregational prayer. Lunch will be served.
“I hope people can start to see Islam as a religion of peace,” Arshad said. “I hope the week will educate people, unite people, build bridges, and also I just hope it’s fun for everyone.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor