Muslim Public Prayer Breaks Stereotypes

CAIRO – Raising aware about Muslim diversity, the Islamic Society of Boston University hosted a public prayer in Campus on Wednesday, March 16, as part of events marking Islam Awareness Month.

“Something most people don’t know much about is that Islam is a very empowering religion for women,” Taiba Zahir, a junior in the College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said following the prayer, The Daily Free Press reported on Thursday, March 17.

“There are many stereotypes about that, and this is the perfect opportunity to break those stereotypes.”

The prayer was held at about 7:15 pm at March Plaza in Boston University and was attended by 16 Muslim students who offered prayers together.

Zahir, the president of the Islamic Society of Boston University (ISBU), said that the public prayer was one of the many programs planned for Islam Awareness Month.

He added that the prayer, attended by 6 male students and 10 females, also aimed to support the Gender Advocacy and Progress Week and to raise awareness of diversity on campus.

“If you see a bunch of people in weird positions, you’d be intrigued because you don’t really see that in your daily life,” Zainab Kazmi, ISBU sisters’ social chair, said referring to the prayer’s movements.

“The purpose of a public prayer is just to spark that interest in people,” Kazmi, a senior in Sargent, added.

Participating in the prayer, Nadea Zahra, ISBU sisters’ religious chair, said that such events were very important to counter increasing anti-Islam rhetoric flared during presidential election.

“We think that it’s our duty as Muslims to spread the real message behind Islam,” Zahra, a senior in the Questrom School of Business, said after the prayer.

“We want people to be familiar with our religion, and we want them to get to know Muslims from Muslims, not from media.”

Combating Islamophobia

Cooperating to counter Islamophobia, Muslim students said that showing others how Muslims worship would break many barriers inside the campus.

“It’s important, especially with the current presidential election, to show people what the real Islam is,” Needa Shaikh, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to practice your religion freely and openly.”

Sabrina Hassan, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, agreed, adding that Wednesday night was the first time she attended a public prayer.

“I was interested to see how people would react, and I felt like most people just walked by,” Hassan said.

“But I loved hearing the people who did have verbal reactions. I could hear some whispered voices, but people had respectful reactions as opposed to being totally shocked.”

“We’re saying that we’re comfortable with our identity as Muslims and encouraging others to embrace their identities as well,” Hassan said.

Maryan Sharif, a junior in Sargent, said she attended public prayer with the ISBU twice in past year.

“The public prayers have taught me to not be afraid of who I am, to be accepting of others and to be proud of my faith,” Sharif said.

“With the rising Islamophobia and with Islam being a hot topic this political season, I think it’s very important to have a public demonstration like this,” she added.