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Organization tackles common stigmas of Islam

‘Islamophobia’ lecture to be held Thursday

Published: Monday, January 20, 2014

Updated: Monday, January 20, 2014 23:01

The Muslim Students’ Association will present “Islamophobia: Exploring the boundaries of American tolerance” Thursday to kick off the Islam Awareness Initiative, a series of events aimed at educating the public about Islam.

Emily Sutcliffe of the University of Pennsylvania Law School will be the speaker at “Islamophobia” and will explore her perceptions of whether American society’s focus on diversity as an issue of skin color has negatively impacted its ability to benefit from different lifestyles, the boundaries of tolerance and if tolerance should even be the goal.

Ziad Syed, education officer of the Muslim Students’ Association and accounting graduate student, said the group hosts the Islam Awareness Initiative each year to educate the community about Islam in a proper way, as opposed to simply using an Internet search.

“One of the big issues we have with this is the fact that not a lot of people know about Islam, and when they want to find out they go on the Internet and search for it,” Syed said. “Usually the people who have the most hate tend to be the loudest, so that’s the voice that they usually tend to hear.”

Syed said the goal of the Islam Awareness Initiative is to create a forum where student questions on Islam can be answered by qualified speakers instead of other sources with sometimes misleading information.

Rafaat Yamak, junior geology major, said the purpose of Sutcliffe’s presentation is not simply to only deal with Islamophobia, but any phobias toward lifestyles found on campus.

“I think phobias in general, whether it’s Islam or homophobia or fear of anything, should be addressed here at Texas A&M,” Yamak said. “We want to address any stereotypes, any misconceptions, and just address any phobia of any belief system in general, not just Islam. That’s the whole point of the event.”

Yamak said Islam is a religion that is just as American as any other religion but is often misunderstood, a problem that he said is fueled by the media. Such misconceptions will be addressed in Sutcliffe’s presentation.

Belal Krad, who completed his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at A&M last December, said students should take it upon themselves to learn and look past any media misportrayals by going to events such as Sutcliffe’s, and that Muslims should also make just as much effort to learn about their religion.

“Honestly, everyone should attend these types of events. Not just non-Muslims, but even the people of the Muslim faith,” Krad said. “One of the goals of the [Islam Awareness Initiative] is to reach out to the community and to show us that we are there, we do have a presence, we do have a voice so the goal is to get everyone to come to these events, not specific to any type of person.”

“Islamophobia: Exploring the boundaries of American tolerance” will be from 7-8 p.m Thursday in MSC 2406A. The Islam Awareness Initiative’s speaker schedule can be found at msa.tamu.edu and will continue through early April.

 

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