NEWCASTLE - Encouraging their non-Muslim colleagues to explore what Islam really is, Muslim students in the Newcastle University has held a Week to raise awareness about the Islamic religion and clear misconceptions on the faith.
I think people have bad views of Islam, Samantha McGregor, a non-Muslim student, who took part at the week, told Sky Tyne and Wear on Monday, March 11.Today it's made me completely change and get rid of all those views.
The Islamic Society at the university has held the Discover Islam Week to raise awareness about the faith among students.
Organizers say the event aimed at breaking down barriers and getting people talking and exploring what Islam really is.
Ahmed Gatnash from the society said the Week tries to dispel stereotypes that are so common about Muslims in the media these days, as they are really harmful to society as well as being plain wrong.
As part of the Week, Muslim students arranged what they called The Hijab Challenge to encourage non-Muslim colleagues to try to wear the Muslim headscarf for a day.
The challenge was a way for students to experience what it feels like to be a Muslim woman in Britain.
I found that people were looking at me. I don't know if they were thinking she looks silly or she's not actually a Muslim, McGregor, who tried hijab for the whole day, said.
I felt like saying: Stop looking at me! I've done nothing wrong.'
I like the idea that you wear a hijab so only your husband can see your hair, I find that quite special.
Non-Muslim students said donning hijab has helped them change views about the headscarf.
It's been really interesting to think about why someone would choose to wear it and why hair would be something to be kept private and be modest about, said Jeanna Spencer, another participant.
Organizers say the event has helped dispel misconceptions that hijab is a symbol of repression of Muslim women.
It's actually quite liberating because we're not forced to dress the way that society or fashion says that we should, Rokeya Begum, head sister of Northumbria University's Islamic Society, said.
The event is to show that we're not forced to wear it and we're quite happy.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
We're normal people, and others shouldn't judge us by the way we dress, said Begum.
Throughout the week, members of the Islamic Society gave short talks, Q&A sessions and offered refreshments and food.
Marking the first annual World Hijab Day on February 1, scores of non-Muslims donned the Muslim veil for a day to promote more religious tolerance and understanding.
The event was first suggested by New York woman Nazma Khan to encourage non-Muslim women to don hijab and experience it.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million.
The majority of the multi-ethnic minority has Indian, Bengali and Pakistani backgrounds.The 2011 census showed that the proportion of Muslims rose from 3.0 percent to 4.8 percent, becoming the fastest growing faith in Britain.