CAIRO - Canadian Muslim students at Queen University are organizing a four-day Islamic awareness week to educate fellow students about their faith and create a forum for interfaith discussions.
Students who don't know about Islam will hear about it from the movies, and there are misunderstandings that come from these views, Amr Ewais, chair of Queen's University Muslim Students Association (QUMSA), told The Journal on Friday, March 16.
Islam Awareness Week, organized by QUMSA, is a series of displays and guest lectures on campus.
The theme for this year's four-day event, which launched on Wednesday, is love.
It aims to educate Queen's students about Islamic faith.
Reaching out to their colleagues, it would also help them create dialogue with other students in the university campus.
QUMSA students said the event is a good opportunity to correct misconceptions associated with their faith.
We have to create a dialogue with the students and tell them that we are just normal people, Ewais said.
We try to say that we are Muslims, we are your friends and neighbors'. QUMSA also runs events and lectures throughout the year as a way to educate and combat prejudice, Ewais said.
Though he has never experienced prejudice before, Ewais said the event would raise awareness and educate is now a precaution.
We don't want to wait until something has happened to every one of us, he said.
We can start now and try to eliminate it.
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the Roman Catholic country.
A survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.
Yet, another survey by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) found that the Muslim minority in Canada is still facing negative perceptions a decade after the 9/11.
The event was hailed as helping Canadians in getting more familiar with Islam, a topic absent from many Canadian campuses.
When I first came to Canada in 2000, a friend at a school in New Brunswick mentioned that there were no courses on Islam at that university, Mehmet Karabela, a religious studies adjunct professor, who is originally from Turkey, told the Journal.
Karabela added that while there are courses on Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism on university campuses, Islamic courses are much less available.
Lacking proper information, Karabela said he hears stories of Islamaphobia which stem from ignorance.
Even some educated people are ignorant, Karabela said.
In the public context people are more respectful. When it comes to their private life, their ideas are more honest and about what they really think.
This fact has changed recently in Queen's university which offers a religious studies course with an introduction to Islam.
There are also a limited number of special seminars.
These courses are very popular with students, said Pamela Dickey, head of religious studies, adding that there are currently not enough funds to expand these offerings.
We think that accurate scholarly knowledge about Islam is crucial in today's world.