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Virginia’s Islam Booth Defies Misconceptions

Published: 24/04/2014 03:47:53 PM GMT
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VIRGINIA – Enthusiastic Muslim students at Virginia Tech university have set up an information booth at their university’s Squires building, offering skeptic students better information about their faith and tackling misconceptions from its roots. “We noticed that there is a need for more information about Muslims, Islamic traditions a...(more)

VIRGINIA – Enthusiastic Muslim students at Virginia Tech university have set up an information booth at their university’s Squires building, offering skeptic students better information about their faith and tackling misconceptions from its roots.

“We noticed that there is a need for more information about Muslims, Islamic traditions and cultures,” Haitham Elmarakeby, a third-year graduate student from Egypt studying computer science, told Collegiate Times website on Wednesday, April 23.

“The students that have come to our table have liked that we are here.”

Titled “Islam: What 1.6 Billion Really Think”, the informational booth was set up as a result of cooperation between member of Islamic Student Assembly and the Muslim Student Association.

Joining forces together, students stand at the booth to provide answers regarding Islam from 1-3 pm on Tuesdays from April 8 through April 29.

Visitors to the booth can choose from a variety of informational pamphlets that discuss everything from Muhammad to misconceptions about Islam.

Passing students can also receive an English translation of the Qur’an, see their name in Arabic and taste Arabian dates.

The initiative began when group members noticed that many people they knew had preconceived notions of Islam — notions that were usually wrong.

According to Elmarakeby, students’ misconceptions about Islam were basically revolving around hijab, or Islamic headscarf worn by Muslim women, and a perceived connection between Islam and terrorism.

Elmarakeby said that people often seem to think that there is “something wrong with Islam that lets people kill others.”

He added that the Qur’an specifically disapproves of murder, adding that the word “Islam” in Arabic means “peace”.

“It is strange that people attach Islam to terrorism,” Elmarakeby said.

Success

Muslim students assured that, in many cases, their discussions with students proved fruitful.

“Some people, after I explain things, they say, ‘Oh, that makes sense now,’” Elmarakeby said.

“But some people come with preconceived images and they start to argue, and even if you explain things, they say, ‘I need to read more,’” he added, explaining that the group embraces these differing viewpoints rather than taking offense to them.

These conversations were actually bringing both Muslim and non-Muslim students to a more common ground.

The conversations that take place there only serve to “(bring) us to a region where we have mutual respect and better understanding,” Elmarakeby said.

The group plans to continue to meet, but also hopes to expand in the future.

“We have two goals,” Elmarakeby said. “We want to reach many people, and we want to reach people deeply.”

Along with information booth sessions, which offered a good start, the group was planning to have mediated discussions where people can meet and talk about the ideas and facts that need to be clarified.

A new Facebook page was started in order to reach a larger number of people to inform them of when group activities will occur.

“This has been a very rich experience for us,” Elmarakeby said.

“We have learned a lot about people and their traditions, habits and concepts.”

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here

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