On the afternoon of March 27, the Muslim Students Association of McGill (MSA) hosted an event titled “Discover Islam” to allow people to experience cultural, spiritual, and educational aspects of Islam.
The two-hour event consisted of activities, panels, and discussions exploring Islam. The activities and panels introducing Islam, led by students and volunteers, featured games as well as opportunities for cultural exchange, such as trying on a hijab or a henna tattoo. On the other side of the room, discussions over tea were led by Muslim guest speakers who explored topics such as community and family.
Ahmer Wali, president of MSA, told The Daily that the intentions of the event were multifaceted. “It’s to let people know about Islam – for those who do know and for those who don’t know, it’s a good reminder, it lets people interact with Muslims, and to learn more,” Wali said.
“We’re living in times where there is a lot of information, but extremely little knowledge.”
He also emphasized that the event was open to non-Muslims. “Perhaps they want to know, but do not know as much about Islam,” he stated. He continued, “we divided the groups accordingly, some of the basic info that most Muslims would have, and then some more in depth topics.”
Razia Hamidi, a community outreach worker, spoke at the event and discussed the topic of an Islamic community as well as what role practicing Muslims must play in today’s society.
“Community in Islam is not founded in race, gender, nationality, locality, occupation, kinship, or special interest,” Hamidi said. “The principles of Islam are about forbidding the evil and enjoining good, so you do that through political activism, through community engagement, civic engagement, constantly.”
She emphasized that community involvement is an important part of Islam. “In order to be a practicing Muslim, and to fundamentally practice Islam as it was meant to be, it’s not just practicing in your homes, rather something that you do outside, and engage and help better your presence in either in Canada, Montreal, on a micro level,” Hamidi said.
Shakib Ahsan, a PhD graduate in education at McGill, clarified the concept of jihad. Although the word can have many meanings, it is often translated as “holy war,” and is understood as a violent act by the public.
“I am happy that there is so much genuine interest about Islam, and people turned up to learn.”
“The misconception about jihad still exists today after 15, 20 years. So I think a lot of these are same old things that are being repeated probably because the media hasn’t done well in teaching the public or they’ve just twisted it to an extent where […] these things are still in the public perception, very blurred,” Ahsan told The Daily.
Seif Zeineldin, a speaker, stressed the importance of directly engaging with the Muslim population in order to have a clear understanding of the religion.
“We’re living in times where there is a lot of information, but extremely little knowledge. And it is much better actually to get the knowledge from someone who already studied this tradition and spent some time studying this tradition [rather] than going around and googling.”
“That’s what this event is all about. Making people question what is portrayed in the media and get a real taste of Islam,” Hamidi said.
After completing the activities, U1 Political Science student Didier Chen noted that he “realized that [he] didn’t know a lot about Islam.”
Lina, a U3 Arts student, told The Daily that she learned a lot at the event. “I am enjoying having conversations with strangers about things that I am not educated in. […] It’s fantastic, this is one of the best events I’ve seen in SSMU. I’m really happy I walked in here,” Lina said.
Wali said that he felt the event was a success. “I am happy that there is so much genuine interest about Islam, and people turned up to learn.”