Until Friday booths exploring everything from women to science in Islam will be set up in the University Centre. Photo: Stephen Cook.
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The University Centre was filled this week with information booths covering a wide variety of subjects involving Islam, all a part of the annual Islam Awareness Week organized by the University of Ottawa Muslim Students Association. We asked some volunteers at those booths to answer one question:

What should everyone know about Islam and why?

Soumaya Marhnouj
Second-year conflict studies & human rights

I think one of the things that people should know about Islam is that, like we’re focusing on this week at Islamic Awareness Week, God is beautiful and loves beauty. And that statement is a prophetic statement from the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. And we take that in our daily lives like our actions, our beautiful actions: being kind to people, being nice to people, being friendly, smiling. Even in Islam, smiling is considered like a form of charity. Even if you have no money to donate or no money to give, just smiling at people is something that’s considered a very good action.

And then that’s beauty in our religion. So looking at all the tables here today, all the tables here this week are looking at beautiful things like scientific innovations in Islam, the artistic in Islam, the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him. The holy book, the Quran, that’s so beautiful linguistically but also for us as Muslims, spiritually it’s beautiful. In Islam we have five basic pillars and just believing our religion and being beautiful to other people is something that I think everyone should take from this week.

Abdul Sattar Aboukarr
Fourth-year electrical engineering

I think the most important thing that everybody should know is that Islam comes from a root word that’s very similar: al-silm, meaning submission, and salaam, which means peace. So those are the two most fundamental attributes of Islam itself and that is to submit first and foremost to God solely. Many times we submit to many other things, for instance: money, our desires, our whims, etc. And the second point is peace. So through the actions and through the regulations of Islam, peace would be generated if they are applied correctly.

The second thing that I want to also comment is that Islam doesn’t come alone, the book does not come alone — it comes rather with the Prophet of god, Muhammad, peace be upon him. And the book would be the guidelines and the actual practice would be seen through the Prophet, peace be upon him.

Nour Elmestekawy
First-year health sciences

I think a really important part of Islam that people should know is ihsan. And ihsan basically means the pursuit of excellent. So ihsan is actually the third level of faith in our religion — there’s two others, the first one is the five pillars of Islam and the second one is the six pillars of belief.

But I’m really going to focus on ihsan because I think people should know that within our religion, we are encouraged all the time to do things to the best of our ability, whether it’s washing the dishes, doing an assignment, a project, group work. Anything. Neighbours, cooking food — anything at all, we strive to do it to the best of our ability.  

Nasteho Samatar
First-year conflict studies & human rights

I just wanted to say that whenever the media portrays it, it’s not true: women are not oppressed. They’re free to do what they want. A lot of Muslim influences such as Ilhan Omar, congresswoman, Halima Aden, model, are such big influences. We are free to be whatever we are.

Rayyan Ebrahim
First-year biotechnology

I think one of the huge misconceptions about Islam is that it doesn’t mix well with Canadian society or just Western society in general. And I think that that’s a huge misconception and it’s false. A lot of the things that we see today that we assume Islam doesn’t believe in, we do. For example, my table’s all about science, so like a lot of the scientific breakthroughs throughout the centuries were made by Muslims, there’s a lot of scientific miracles or evidence in the Quran. Or things like our law, for example — Canadian law is based on Common law which is based on Roman law which is based on Mosaic law. And so again, like Shariah law follows Mosaic law. So there’s a lot of things that are intertwined between Islamic or like Oriental ideals that are very similar to what we have here in Canada.

And at its core, Islam is just a religion that tells you that there is one God and just to believe in that one God and that isn’t some radical concept, there’s a lot of monotheistic religions and Islam respects those religions.

(Something) a lot of people (can) take away from this week is just to be aware that Islam is a religion of peace, it’s a religion that fits very well into Canadian society and it’s not against Canadian society.

Islam Awareness Week ends Friday with a closing ceremony, starting at 3 p.m. in the University Centre. More information can be found on the club’s Facebook page.


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