CAIRO – Setting the groundwork for a better community for Muslims on campus, a Muslim group in the University of Minnesota invited their colleagues to try hijab for a day to spread awareness about the importance of the Islamic veil in Islam.
“They told us they don’t know why we wear hijab[s],” English and family social science junior Inari Mohammed, a member of the Islam Awareness Week committee, told Minnesota Daily.
“And so it’s a really good opportunity to answer the questions they do have.”
The event, held on Tuesday, was attended by more than 350 students who covered their hair with hijabs in front of Coffman Union.
It is one of several events hosted by the Al-Madinah Cultural Center and the Muslim Students Association to celebrate Islam Awareness Week and help clear up common misconceptions about Muslims.
Teaching students about the importance of hijab in Islam, student groups hope this week will explain aspects of their culture and set the groundwork for a better community for Muslims on campus.
AMCC President Nora Nashawaty said it gives them a chance to correct many misunderstandings about the daily life of practicing Muslims, citing what movies and TV do by linking the words “Allahu Akbar”, an Arabic term meaning “God is great”, with terrorist characters.
“We say that when we pray, and it’s tough to know that if I’m going to say it out loud, someone might think that I’m about to do something horrible,” Nashawaty said.
Due to the high number of Muslim students in the campus, these programs were required to erase any misconception about their faith.
Linguistics senior Ben Slye, who attended a discussion about the meaning of modesty, asked whether it was OK to compliment a Muslim woman on her hijab, which other attendees said would conflict with the headscarf’s purpose to maintain modesty.
“I don’t know the interactions that I’m supposed to be having [with Muslims], and I want to cultivate those relationships,” he said.
Family social science senior Samsam Mohamed wears her hijab both to abide by the Qur’an and as a personal choice.
“It’s security for me. I feel I’m secure. I’m safe,” she said.
“For me, I have that inner peace of person. I really feel complete; I feel calm when I wear the [hijab].”
The awareness week will also discuss the Muslim students’ life on campus during the week days.
Daphne Yuan, Multifaith Student Council vice president and one of the participants, said those who take part are asked to pray five times a day, wear a hijab, fast and avoid alcohol, pork and sexual activity.
“It’s a very big commitment and dedication to religion,” said Yuan, who identifies as a Deist.
The daily life of Muslims will be discussed in a more elaborate way in a play written by students, which will be performed on Friday, Nashawaty said.
The plot follows a student who was born a Muslim and only recently began discovering what it means to follow his faith.
“You have struggles like, ‘What do you do when someone flirts with me? What do I do when someone asks me to drink alcohol?’” she said.
For the Muslim student, their dedication to present the true face of their religion to people goes beyond annual awareness week.
“We just really wanted to elucidate those struggles and also the really cool things our religion empowers us to do on a college campus,” Nashawaty said.