Muslim. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? September 11th? Al-Qaeda? Saddam Hussein? If so, then I hope you went to USC’s Islam Awareness Week. Held the first week of March, the series of events sought to clear up misconceptions about Islam as well as answer any burning questions held by the student body .
The first event, for example was called “Islam 101.” Its primary purpose was to explain the bare basics of Islam. Literally. Like, the core tenets of what Muslims believe in. Which, coincidentally, don’t differ too much from any of the other monotheistic religions.
Tuesday’s event was all about putting those core tenets into practice. A phenomenal and comical speaker by the name of Taif Kaissi discussed with the audience how he puts his faith into action. As the Vice President of an organization called Medical Network Devoted to Service (MiNDS), Dr. Kaissi helps to provide unconditional medical treatment to the economically disadvantaged. While conducting physicals, this network of doctors checks up on the patients’ spirituality, regardless of their beliefs, consistent with the Islamic principle of treating everyone equally, regardless of who they are, where they’ve been or where they’re going.
For me, the highlight of Islam Awareness Week was Hijab Day. The idea was for women who haven’t worn the hijab (a headscarf that covers the hair and neck and leaves the face exposed) to try it out for a day and then reflect on the experience. Many of the women who decided to wear Hijab for the day shared a thought expressed by Saleeta Rajwani, a current USC student: “… I had confidence and respect for myself and my religion.” Hijab Day did not only affect the women who participated in it, but those who interacted with them as well. Many of the participating women expressed a sense of calm at the fact that they were being judged on the content of their minds and not on their bodies.
These sentiments and more were expressed at the re-cap event that night. And it was beautiful. It was beautiful to see both men and women come together and discuss and celebrate an item of clothing that promoted modesty, self-confidence and no bad hair days EVER.
If you weren’t able to make it out to any event from this year’s Islam Awareness Week, I urge you to do so next year. As college students, we should be jumping at every opportunity to learn about another culture, another viewpoint, another opinion, another faith. As Rajwani said, “An appreciation for others’ beliefs is the way we can better coexist in society.”