CAIRO - Seeking to raise awareness about their religion, Muslim students at a San Francisco university have performed their weekly prayers under the sun to offer other students a better opportunity to experience Islamic sermons at first hand.
"There's a lot of people who don't know what Islam is," David Mohammed, president of Muslim Student Association at San Francisco State University, told Xpress Golden Gate, the university's newspaper.
"Since September 11, there's a lot of misunderstanding. We're trying to spread what Islam really is.
"We're trying to preach we're a religion of peace."
Mohamed was speaking after a special Friday prayer was held on April 19, in the middle of SF State's quad.
Themed "Jumaa Under the Sun", the prayers were attended by some 60 Muslim students who sat to listen to Muslim scholar Fasih Kahwaja's sermon about mankind's forgetfulness of its creator, Allah.
The sermon surrounded Allah's question: "What was that thing that made you forget about your creator? The one who has created and fashioned you as one of the best of my creation? I expected you to do good. I expected you to understand the purpose of your life. But what was that thing that made you forget about me? as translated from Arabic by Kahwaja.
Close to the area, several spectator students sat nearby listening to the sermon.
The event is held once a semester to raise awareness about Islam on campus, and build unity within MSA.
There's even advertisements on billboards and on Muni that put Islamic verses out of the Qur'an out of context and say Islam is all about violence, war, subduing people, forcing them to believe what Islam believes in," 19-year-old computer science major Bilal Thapaliya, said.
"The word Islam means peace acquired by submitting your will to the creator, the one who created everything."
The prayers won plaudits from non-Muslim students for helping show Islamic ideals.
"I thought it was very eloquent, everything about it (the sermon)," said Marissa Whitten, 25, a history major with an emphasis in Middle Eastern studies, who spotted the prayers while walking across the quad.
"There was a certain spirit and fluidity about the culture and the procession: how respectful everyone is, interested and focused in everything that is going on."
After the procession, the community enjoyed a picnic of Indian food, watermelon, cake and soda.
A table of Qur'an copies and Islamic pamphlets was also set up to explain Islamic traditions.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Another report by CAIR, the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net