Volume 96, Issue 68
Thursday, January 30, 2003

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Islam Day spreads awareness
Muslim culture celebrated on campus

By Marshall Bellamy
Gazette Staff

Islam Awareness Day brought tables, posters and displays, showcasing Islamic culture to a crowded University Community Centre atrium yesterday.

"Islam is an important part of Canadian culture," said Sarrah Lawendy, senior advisor to the Muslim Students' Association, who pointed out there are approximately 1.2 billion Muslims living in the world today.

"There are a lot of catch words [being used] in the media," Lawendy stated, adding yesterday's event looked to dispel any misconceptions that may exist about Islam.

Lawendy provided the example of the word jihad, which is popularly translated as a holy war, implying religious conflict. In truth, she said, the word literally means struggle, which relates to the struggle within ourselves, not a violent struggle with others over religious issues.

The place of women in Islamic society also tends to be misinterpreted as being one of oppression, Lawendy explained, adding, in truth, a woman's position in the Muslim faith is actually a liberated one that draws attention to the woman's intellectual qualities, rather then only her physical qualities.

"Knowledge is crucial," Lawendy asserted, citing universities as the perfect forum for raising awareness concerning the Islamic faith.

"The day is a celebration of culture," said Lil Chieh, University Students' Council VP-student affairs.

The goal of the day is to bring to light important cultural issues and, at the same time, inform students about certain political issues, Chieh stated.

With Islam Awareness Day coming on the heels of Israel Day – which was held this past Monday – many wondered if there was a political statement being made.

"There was no intention [for a political statement]," said Nicole Nelson, USC VP-campus issues, adding Islam Awareness Day is concerned with issues of culture, not politics.

The reason the two events took place during the same week was due to scheduling conflicts that did not allow the MSA to schedule Islam Awareness Day in the atrium for any day other than Wednesday of the same week as Israel Day, Chieh explained.

"[Islam Awareness Day] shows you how much you don't know about other religions – you get blind-sided by the fact that they are just normal people," said third-year administration and commercial studies student Justin Steepe.

"I think it raises [multicultural] awareness – we should remember we're Canadian not American," said fourth-year political science student Vivienne Hsu.

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2002 THE GAZETTE