CAIRO - Students at Purdue University in the northeastern US state of Indiana have been offered a unique opportunity to know more about Islam and Islamic culture after Muslim students launched an awareness week, creating a forum for interfaith discussions.
I definitely have learned some stuff about Islamic culture that I didn't know before, Meghan Zeller, a 19-year-old sophomore, told Lafayette Journal & Courier newspaper.Zeller was among dozens of students who rushed to a tent in Purdue University's Memorial Mall where Muslim students opened the Islamic Awareness week.
She sat quietly while her Muslim colleague Afra Hussain slowly painted an intricate henna tattoo on her hand.
The week, which started Monday, October 15, is held and organized each semester by the Purdue Muslim Student Association.
It houses henna tattoos, ethnic food and information tables from predominantly Muslim countries such as Egypt.
Through Friday, Muslim students will also offer free English translations of the Noble Qur'an.
There also will be evening speakers addressing such topics as Are Muslim Women Oppressed? and the Islamic Perspective on Creation versus Evolution.
A lot of us don't know a lot about the culture in general, said Zeller.
It helps to let us understand better.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A US survey had revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll had also found that more than half Americans already hold negative views about the faith.
Yet, a Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
The event won praise for offering non-Muslim students more information about Islam as well as creating a forum for interfaith discussions.
We don't want people to be afraid of Muslims, said Nabeel Alsaber, vice president of the Muslim Student Association.
We want them to know about the religious side and cultural. We are encouraging interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Having a special booth to offer answers about Islam, the group usually gets about 150 visitors to the tent each day, and about 200 attend the evening sessions, Alsaber said.
Some students, such as Catherine Crevecoeur, stopped by Monday to find out more about the Islamic faith.
The 20-year-old junior, who is a Christian, got a free copy of the Noble Qur'an after her Muslim friend challenged her to find out more about Islam as he learns more about Christianity.
Shaylyn Vogler, another student, praised the event for connecting people culturally.
It helps reduce stereotypes and allows you to be more open with people, said the 19-year-old sophomore.Some people feel awkward trying to open up to other cultures but things like this can help you.