The University’s Campus Muslim Life and the Muslim Students Association (MSA) co-hosted their first annual Discover Islam Week from March 20-23. The week was full of various events aimed at educating, dispelling myths, and challenging perceptions about Muslims.
“This week was meant for students beyond the Muslim community at Bucknell to come and observe — to provide exposure and insight into the life of a practicing Muslim.” Kabir Uddin ’19, a member of MSA said “We’ve always been an invisible club on campus, even among Muslim students. We do put on events and have consistent programming, so this week was also meant to extend outreach as well as develop understandings… There’s a knowledge asymmetry on campus. There’s a lot of misunderstandings about our religion — what it permits and what it’s about. It was important for us to show what Islam really is.”
Each event offered a different forum for discussion and increased understanding. “The Ask a Muslim” event on March 20 allowed students, faculty, and staff to ask questions directly to members of the University’s Muslim Students Association at a table in the LC Mall. Questions ranged from “what are the different sects of Islam?” to “what is Jihad?”
The “Women in Islam” panel discussion on March 22 created a space to discuss issues and perceptions surrounding women within the Islamic community and featured three female Muslim scholars and educators. The Interfaith Chaplain from Alvernia University in Reading, PA, Rubina Tareen, discussed the equality of the sexes in Islamic scripture. Professor Sonia Ammar from Bloomsburg University focused on the significance of the hijab, the traditional veil worn by some women of the Muslim faith. Maryam Sharrieff, educator and filmmaker from Boston, MA, explained how Muslim women are often marginalized both in the production of Islamic knowledge and in the mainstream feminist movement. The event was held in the LC Forum and nearly 50 people attended.
“It was an incredibly rich evening some very thought-provoking questions,” Br. Mouhamadou B. Diagne, Chaplain for the University’s Muslim community, said.
“There are a lot of misconceptions that stem from ideals surrounding women in Islam. This event resulted in really fruitful and productive discussion” Uddin, who also declared the Women in Islam panel his favorite event of the week, said. Uddin was also glad to organize a campus-wide event rather than “one with just our friends.”
Two events took place on March 23: the open Jummah service in the Muslim Community Space as well as the Demystifying Jihad discussion later that night. The Jummah service is the Muslim congregational prayer and is held every Friday afternoon in the South Campus Apartments Building 2. About a dozen non-Muslims attended this open service, according to Diagne. The discussion later in the evening, which featured a halal meal catered from a restaurant in Williamsport, addressed some commonly misinterpreted verses from the Quran and familiarized the audience with the four types of jihad – which is an Arabic word for “struggle.”
The Muslim Students Association’s events received support and genuine interest from the University community and beyond.
Uddin said, “We [Omar El-Etr ’19, Ikmal Azman ’19, and Uddin] have one more year as Bucknell students, so after this first go-around, we know what we can do to amp up things for next year, like booking speakers with more advance.”
Diagne declared the week “well-received, well-attended” and said that it “provided hunger for more programs of this sort.”
“We covered a lot of productive and meaningful topics with our events. We appreciate all of the support we received, but we hope to get a broader turnout next year,” Ikmal Azman ’19 said, a member of MSA. “It’s cool that students here are learning there is actually a Muslim community at Bucknell.”
“If someone knows that one of their friends is Muslim, don’t ever feel that your curiosity and questions will offend them, if anything it’ll only excite them” Omar El-Etr ’19 said.
This is the University’s first year with a Muslim chaplain. With Diagne’s support, MSA and Campus Muslim Life hope to make Discover Islam Week an annual event.