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Breaking stereotypes of Muslims through the annual Islamic Awareness Week

Last week, students and members of the University of Maine community came together to celebrate the Islamic Awareness Week.

Members of the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) have been planning for the Islamic Awareness Week, their biggest event of the year, since early February.

“These events show that there is a Muslim community on campus,” Sara Imam, Secretary of MSA, said. Imam is a Pakistani-American in her second year of microbiology and anthropology studies at UMaine. “We are just like you, we are part of this community and active participants of it.”

The purpose of the Islamic Awareness Week is to educate the public on Islam and to break stereotypes that people might have about the second most practiced religion in the world.

On Friday, April 6, Dr. Saadia Mian gave a talk titled “Honoring Women in a Dishonoring World.” More than 50 people filled the Bangor Room, leaving no empty seats for the presentation of women’s celebration in Islam. Dr. Mian shared the story of Maryam, who is believed to be the first female to be educated and have a leadership position in a place of worship. Traditionally, men were encouraged to carry on religious scholarship.

For the first time, the MSA hosted a female speaker during Islamic Awareness Week.

“As with any religion, there are different kinds of Muslims,” Imam said. Despite being Muslim, Imam chooses not to wear a hijab. “They think of one Muslim person and think they must behave one certain way. It’s important to realize that as you see with other religions, there are different kinds of Christians, different kinds of Jews, and it’s the same with Islam.”

On Saturday, April 7, the Islamic Center of Maine hosted an open house for people interested in hearing Shaykh Saad Tasleem’s talk titled “Spiritual Contentment and Societal Harmony.” Like Dr. Mian’s talk, Tasleem’s talk generated great a large audience of people interested in learning more about Islam.

The Honors College encourages trips to the Islamic Center, yet many people are unaware that there is a mosque down the road. The Islamic Awareness Week gave many people an opportunity to pay a visit to the Islamic Center for the first time.

“Instead of assuming what you see in the media is true, it’s always better to ask come and ask a question,” Imam said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

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