By Tooba UlHaque –
After 50 hours, several cups of coffee and a few missed lunches later, this year’s MSA team launched our biggest event of the year: Islam Awareness Week. Islam Awareness Week (IAW) is a nationwide MSA tradition that is a weeklong, event-packed informational experience.
With the rise of inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims in the media and increase in hate crimes and speech, IAW could not come too soon. Even at ASU, there have been incidents of anti-Muslim propaganda. After the Charlie Hebdo incident, posters were found targeting the Muslim community at ASU. Thankfully, these were quickly taken down, but soon afterwards ASU students were exposed to the sight of an eccentric and hateful mall preacher shouting profanities against Muslims and Islam in front of the Student Union.
Because the university mall is a free-speech zone, preachers and others do come to the ASU campus and have a history of targeting other groups including women and atheists. Unfortunately, however, the hundreds of students that this preacher was able to gather and provoke through his ranting for nearly two weeks seemed unprecedented. Johnny Martin, a recent student convert to Islam and former student president of Sun Devils Are Better Together, the ASU interfaith club, regularly stood up with posters about interfaith cooperation to oppose the preacher. Our own Educational Chair Syed Ridhwaan organized MSA tabling next to him almost every time he arrived on campus. In this way, when he gathered a crowd to misinform the student body about Islam, MSA was there handing out educational pamphlets to counter the misconception the mall preacher was spreading.
Additionally, Muslim students and the MSA were shown an immense amount of support by ASU students and staff during these events. Masses of non-Muslim students and staff, fuming after hearing the preacher, would voice their opposition outright, make a beeline for the MSA table and pick up pamphlets, or stop by to say a kind word or two thanking the MSA for tabling as a response to the preacher’s vitriolic raving. The ASU Dean of Students and other ASU staff organized meetings with the MSA and ICC masjid staff to reach out and let us know they were fully supportive of us but could not physically prevent the preacher from exercising his right to free speech on campus. Still, it is not enough for us to settle for damage control anymore. It is time for us to start teaching those around us about the truth of Islam. IAW is our way of addressing most of the most popular questions and misconceptions people have about our beloved religion.
Through a series of more than 15 events held over six days, the MSA strived to make as much of an impact as possible. Each day of Islam Awareness Week featured a half-hour tour of the masjid, Islamic Community Center of Tempe. While the MSA team worked tirelessly to organize these events and coordinate among speakers, the university and other students, we always need the community’s prayers, help and encouragement. We would also like to sincerely thank the staff and board at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe for their continuous support of the Muslim Students Association, the time Imam Ahmad has given in training our student volunteers, the ASU staff that has helped us to advertise the event, our student coalition partners, all of our amazing speakers who have generously donated their time to us for preparing and giving their talks, and to Deenah Syed for creating the beautiful flyers and advertising material for Islam Awareness Week.
As we continue to work hard to make this a successful endeavor, we would like to ask our generous community for their dua’as and support in funding our incredible weeklong event.
For more information or to speak with us about Islam Awareness Week, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or look us up on our Facebook page at: Muslim Students Association (MSA) of ASU.