This year’s Muslim Awareness Week, which ran from March 17 through 23, featured speakers, events, and activities focusing on the theme “The Truth About Islam: Dispelling Stereotypes.”

The Muslim Student Association leaders said they felt that many students were eager to learn more about Islam, a religion whose tenets and members have been thrust into the American limelight, for better or worse. “I definitely feel that a lot of people were interested,” junior and MSA President Aizaz Shaikh said.

Over two hundred people attended a speech by Imam Siraj Wahhaj to kick off the week. The Tuesday talk by the well-known Brooklyn cleric drew large numbers of non-Muslim students and people from the Greater Rochester community.

Wahhaj, a former Nation of Islam minister, is a widely respected leader among American Muslims. He is admired by many in Brooklyn for his successful efforts to combat crime and drug rings in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area.

During his speech, Wahhaj emphasized how Muslims need to focus on the values and goals of their religion despite the accusations against which they often must defend.

Although his message was serious, Wahhaj’s speech was dynamic and, at times, humorous.

On the subject of random airport searches of Muslims, Wahhaj said, “You can spit on my face, but don’t spit on my face and tell me its rain.”

On Wednesday, students gathered in Dewey Hall to watch a short movie entitled “A Closer Look at Islam.”

Several non-Muslim students attended this event as well as Friday’s prayer ceremony in the Interfaith Chapel. In the spirit of improving understanding, both events were followed by discussion.

Throughout the week, MSA members staffed a colorful table in Wilson Commons, which featured posters of Islamic sites, informational literature, and Henna tattoos. According to sophomore and MSA member Amina Masood, many students were interested in the posters and the Henna. The tattoos, which last approximately two weeks.

Saturday’s dinner at the Interfaith Chapel capped off the week’s events. Guest speaker Anwer Ahmed of Syracuse University spoke about some of the most contentious issues in contemporary analyses of Islam, the term jihad and women in Islam.

Shaikh felt that the week succeeded in dispelling stereotypes and cultivating understanding. “The whole point of this week was for people to become more aware,” he said. “People have come up to me and said they learned a lot.”

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