Celebrating Islam, dispelling prejudice
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 17:03
“Islamophobia” is the irrational fear of Muslims. As a result of the post-9/11 world, many misunderstandings about Islam have resulted in an epidemic of fear surrounding the religion.
The Muslim Student Association at Oregon State University is dedicated to sharing the truth about Islam with the campus community. The MSA Vice President Hugo Mekaoui shares the mission statement, “We strive to remove the darkness of misconception and replace it with the light of knowledge.”
The group organizes several events each year, which are open to anyone of any religion. They do a Fast-a-Thon during Ramadan in the summer and will host a comedy night during spring term. MSA recently hosted the popular Night of the Crescent with almost 200 attendees. The event included a live fashion show with traditional Muslim dress, a guest speaker and delicious food.
The fashion show was meant to help disband the “us vs. them” mantra instilled in many minds after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, by identifying and upending common misconceptions about Islam.
One common fallacy asserts Muslim women have no rights. Bayann Gonda, a sophomore math major and MSA member, said the hijab — the traditional headscarves and modest dress that many Muslim women wear — is a matter of choice.
“You don’t wear it because you have to,” Gonda said. “You do it when you’re ready, solely for the sake of God.”
Her experience wearing the Hijab on campus has been cordial, because the OSU community welcomes all cultures and religions. Similarly, Mekaoui finds OSU a beautiful community and campus with an abundance of understanding and a desire to learn about Islam.
She says it is morally wrong to criticize someone based on appearance.
Another misconception about Muslims is they’re all terrorists.
“Many people look solely to the media for beliefs and want to stay in a bubble of ignorance,” Gonda said.
Both Mekaoui and Gonda have been pulled out of airport security lines and separately checked with pat-downs.
“At the end of the day we’re all the same,” Mekaoui said, who is originally from Paris. “We all desire peace and respect,”
Mekaoui understands the misconceptions society places on Muslims, and through the Muslim Student Association he, and more than 100 other members, aim to accept all kinds of people through tolerance and patience.
Mekaoui notes the MSA is open to everyone — Muslim or not. He encourages all members and new participates to actively engage in discussions and ask questions.
Mekaoui noted all members of the MSA are tolerant and willing to replace the fallacies about Islam since 9/11.
Kate Virden, news reporter