The CCT atrium was strewn with roses and carnations on Monday morning to signal the start of Islam Awareness Week hosted by the Muslim Students’ Association.
This year’s theme was “Unity through Diversity” and was chosen partly due to global events relating to Islam and Muslims, such as the rise of ISIS, the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the release of American Sniper, and the Chapel Hill shooting, among others.
When asked how IAW helped tackle these issues, MSA president Maha Khan said the week is “an attempt to debunk myths, clear misconceptions, raise awareness, and strengthen the ties of the community”, adding that “the media has depicted Islam to be a religion of hate and violence when this is not actually the case”.
The MSA advertised that all events of the week were open to people of all religious backgrounds and none.
The biggest event took place on Friday.
Inspired by TED Talks, “Muslim Talks” was a four-hour event organized by MSA senior advisor and UTMSU board member Belal Rifai.
The MSA collaborated with the new Islamic Relief chapter at UTM and the Muslim Chaplaincy at U of T “[to bring to life] this large-scale event [that] incorporated different influential Muslim speakers to enlighten the audience on various topics,” Rifai told The Medium.
The speakers at the event included Zaid Al Rawni, CEO of Islamic Relief, psychologist Omar Mahmood, and Rabia Khedr, a candidate for Mississauga city councillor in Ward 4.
Throughout the week, the atrium was filled with booths with activities including henna, a “Dawah” booth to provide information about Islam, and a table where female students could try on a hijab.
On Monday, flowers were given to passersby with sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions attached to the stems. Hot chocolate was also given out in the Student Centre during the week.
“Our aim isn’t to convert anyone,” said MSA community service director Lara Gamgoum. “It’s to [spread] kindness and get across the real message of Islam, even if it’s just a sentence. And who doesn’t like flowers?”
Tuesday’s “convert panel” featured five Muslim converts who spoke about the experiences and incidents that led them to Islam. The evening was well-attended and had an emotional impact on some of the audience.
Other events included a Q&A with a prominent leader in the Muslim community, Shaykh Abdalla Idris, and a presentation of the third-most sacred mosque for Muslims, Masjid al Aqsa in Jerusalem.
IAW takes place annually in universities across Canada.