Many Muslim students often feel the frustration of having their religion misconceived by other individuals. Some of those students try to educate others about their religion to eliminate those misconceptions. The Muslim Student Association at Montclair State University is filled with students who believe in the importance of dispelling the mischaracterizations and showing the Islamic religion as a peaceful one. In the project you are about to see, we hear the viewpoint of Muslim students from MSU on topics such as religious intolerance and how their religion has positively affected their lives. We will also see photos from events hosted by the Muslim Student Association that celebrate the Islamic religion and the non-Muslim members of the MSU community who support their religion. We will also hear about the teachings of Islam and the positive virtues that the religion promotes. The project below is ultimately a celebration of an unfairly maligned religion, one that is filled with people who believe in the importance of brotherhood and treating everyone with fairness and respect.
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/07/17 CELEBRATING ISLAMIC AWARENESS WITH THE REDHAWK: On the fourth day of Islamic Awareness Week, the Muslim Student Association hosted an event promoting the Just and Kind Code Of Conduct that is actually promoted by the Islamic religion. Taking place on a Thursday evening in the Rathskeller Dining Center at Montclair State University, many Muslim students hung out before the official party began. During this time, the Montclair State RedHawk came to the party to show support for the Muslim students and help them promote their weeklong celebration. While all of the students were already excited for the event, the RedHawk's presence only added to the jovial mood of the whole affair.
"There's beauty in (the Islamic religion). It's not just praying five times a day or fasting a full month at Ramadan.... There's a lot more than that..... There's beauty in learning about (the Islamic religion)"- Shefa Alkhalaf: President Of Muslim Student Association
FINDING TRUE HAPPINESS THROUGH THE ISLAMIC RELIGION
Aseal Nassar is a Freshman at Montclair State University and a proud member of the school's Muslim community. Although he prays five times a day, Nassar was not always a devout follower of his religion. Coming from a family that did not fully commit to the practices of the Islamic religion, Nassar had a very relaxed attitude towards his religion until a life altering event occurred several months ago. Nassar and his brother went on a camping trip to the Islamic Center of Passaic County for the purpose of getting some rest and relaxation. In a dark place, Nassar claims that the trip enlightened him to the importance of following his religion and getting his family to be more active in their Islamic religion as well. His story is about how Muslim youths face the same doubts and revelations of faith that people from all religions do, while also promoting the positive values that come from following the practices of your religion.
"Every time a prayer comes... I'm reminding myself who is my creator, where am I going if I continue being a good person, good to other people"- Aseal Nassar: Montclair State University Freshman
SHEFA ALKHALAF- THE LEADER OF THE MUSLIM STUDENT ASSOCIATION
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/11/17 THE PROUD LEADER OF MSA: Shefa Alkhalaf, the president of the Muslim Student Association at Montclair State University, often finds herself frustrated when the media promotes the more negative aspects of her religion. Though she herself has never been a victim of religious intolerance, Shefa knows that many of the brothers and sisters of her religion are not so lucky. Her hope is that more non-Muslim citizens will take a stand when they see people of her religion facing such intolerance. In the SoundCloud clip below, you will hear Shefa talk about her primary desire of wanting people of all religions to realize that someone should not be treated differently simply because of what they believe.
"(Muslims) are people like you and me, and just because they worship differently doesn't make them any less of a human" - Shefa Alkhalaf: President Of Muslim Student Association
MUSLIM STUDENT ASSOCIATION: AN ATTEMPT AT UNITY
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 FIGHTING FOR AN IMPORTANT CAUSE: Mahmoud Shahin, the Vice President of the Muslim Student Association, works with MSA President Shefa Alkhalaf to promote their organization and bring in new members. Mahmoud believes in the cause of the MSA, which is to work with as many organizations on campus to promote a sense of unity amongst all people. Thinking that individuals in society have become too focused on themselves, Mahmoud uses the MSA as a means of acting upon the true teachings of Islam, which includes helping out other people. Rather than focusing on individual success, Mahmoud focuses on trying to make sure that as many people as possible feel like they are welcome wherever they go. His personal goals and aspirations for the Muslim Student Association are the topic of the SoundCloud clip below.
"Society has become a little too individualistic... Being a Muslim teaches us that... it's not about yourself. It's also about God and it's about helping people around you"- Mahmoud Shahin: Vice President Of Muslim Student Association.
THE TEACHINGS OF ISLAM
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/06/17 HEARING THE TEACHINGS OF ISLAM: During the Just and Kind Code Of Conduct celebration in the Rathskeller Dining Center at Montclair State University, many Muslim students sat down and listened to a lecture before their party began. The lecture was hosted by Muneer Hamdeh, a local Muslim activist who goes around the New Jersey area promoting the teachings of the Islamic religion. During his speech, Hamdeh discussed the values of the Islamic religion such as being compassionate towards your fellow man and showing respect to your family members. The video below presents a five minute piece of his half hour lecture, and specifically focuses on the importance of being the leader of your flock while not craving too much power. The entire lecture by Hamdeh demonstrates how even though people believe in different religions, all religions still teach positive virtues and push for everyone to act like a good person in life.
"When we talk about how to treat one another, it has to start with the simplest thing, and that is to not love power. Those who are in love with power, and those who are in love with their authority are worst to others"- Muneer Hamdeh: Local Activist And Speaker For The Muslim Community.
GIVING THANKS FOR THE PEOPLE AND FOR ALLAH
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING THANKS: One of the essential aspects of the Islamic religion is giving thanks for all that you have in your life. On a Thursday evening on the fourth floor of the Student Center at Montclair State University, the Muslim Student Association hosted a "Teacher's Appreciation Night" to give thanks to the teachers in their lives. In the Islamic culture, to show thanks to those who are good to you is to give thanks to Allah. As the event started and the final preparations were being made, students like Asseal Nassar made heartfelt speeches in which they talked about how their teachers made them feel like their religion had no bearing on how they would be treated in class. The teachers sat in the front of the room to hear the speeches and be the center of attention for the evening The speeches made by the students are shown in the first of two Facebook Live videos posted below. The second Facebook Live video features a game of Pictionary that saw the teachers face off against the students after the speeches concluded.
"...In Islam.... If you have not thanked the people, you have not thanked Allah... In Islam, we always have to show gratitude for others"- Muslim Student Speaker At Teacher's Appreciation Night
THE MUSLIM STUDENT ASSOCIATION'S GALLERY FOR GIVING THANKS
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 THE WHEEL OF ISLAM: During the Teacher's Appreciation Night in the Student Center at Montclair State University, people were given the opportunity to play a variety of games. One of those games was a mini-quiz where you spin a wheel and have to answer a question the needle lands on. Since the event was hosted by the Muslim Student Association, the questions on the wheel focused on different aspects of the Islamic religion. Teachers were encouraged by the MSA members to spin the wheel and test their own knowledge of the Islamic religion. For a night focused on celebrating the educators of Montclair State University, this game had a purpose in educating people about the Islamic religion.
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 CHARITY IN THE NAME OF ALLAH: In Islam, one way to honor Allah is to give in the name of helping others. So, the Muslim Student Association had a donation box placed on one of their tables in the fourth floor of the Student Center at Montclair State University. The hope of the donation box was that people would give a few dollars to help support the Muslim Student Association. Like every student-based organization on campus, the Muslim Student Association puts together a variety of events that have a financial cost in addition to being time consuming. To give even a dollar to the donation box would be the patrons way of giving thanks to MSA for hosting a fun evening and providing everyone at the event with a nice meal.
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 FAMILY FEUD: As part of the night's lineup of games, the students and the teachers were allowed to participate in a game of Family Feud. A maximum of three students and three teachers could come up at the same time to take part in the game, with the students and teachers comprising the two teams. Taking place by the white board in the fourth floor of the Student Center at Montclair State University, the teams were asked to think of the correct words dependent on certain topics. When asked about the topic of "Summer-Time", the students had the upper hand on the teachers and ended up winning that round.
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 SHOCK WITH A SIDE OF LAUGHTER: Several members of the Muslim Student Association were responsible for setting up and heating up the entrees brought for the guests to eat at the Teacher's Appreciation Night. On the fourth floor of the Student Center at Montclair State University, three female members of MSA were getting the meals ready when they witnessed something happen off-camera. The off-camera incident made two of the students laugh and the student on the far left open her mouth in shock. The unexpected event and the reaction it provoked was all part of the fun that came with the evening.
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 ENTREES FROM ISLAM FOR ALL PEOPLE: Once the meals were finally heated, the three students took the tops off of each entree to reveal what they had brought for the teachers and other guests to eat. Placed gently on one of the tables in the fourth floor of the Student Center at Montclair State University, people were able to see the variety of Islamic-based entrees that they could try. Whether or not any of the guests would eat these entrees again after trying them, serving this food encouraged the guests to step out of their comfort zone and have food from a culture that most people often tend not to eat. Most people do not eat food from the Islamic culture due to how different it is from food of their own culture. To step out of your comfort zone and try things from different cultural groups is one of the most productive ways you can attain a better understanding of these different cultural groups and become a more educated person.
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 SERVING UP THE LINE: When the speeches and games have finally wrapped up, the professors and non-MSA affiliated guests are allowed to go up to the back table and get some of the Islamic based meals. Given that it was late in the evening in the fourth floor of the Student Center at Montclair State University, the guests were more than eager to try out some of the food. In addition to the food, the Muslim Student Association members had bottles of water and cans of soda neatly lined up on the tables so as to make sure everyone could drink something that they liked. While there was a long line to get food, the MSA members made sure that everyone was served and that everyone was able to try some of the food.
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 CHATTING IT UP WITH THE TEACHERS: After the teachers have been seated, the members of the Muslim Student Association and other students who attended the event are going up to the table to receive their food. Meanwhile, Aseal Nassar goes up to a male professor and begins to have a conversation with him. The two share some laughs while another teacher listens on in amusement. As this goes on, another student has a conversation with the sole female professor sitting at the table. Given that the entire evening was about the importance of students and teachers showing their appreciation for one another, everyone at the event treated each other like good friends rather than mere associates at a college.
There are a lot of thoughts and feelings about religion dependent on what your beliefs are. Whether you are Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, or Atheist, we have all seen that it is incredibly difficult for most people to accept each other's differing beliefs. A person's religion provides them with a variety of challenges and questions of personal belonging, no matter what religion they follow or how seriously they follow it. Below is a series of questions focusing on religion and how deeply religion affects or has affected your life. These ten "yes or no" questions can be used for you to figure out if you allow your religion to play as big a role in your life as you should let it. Be honest with the questions, as they are meant to inform you about yourself more than anyone else.
Closing: Or, The Totally Expected Virtue Of Education
MONTCLAIR, NJ 04/27/17 EDUCATION ABOVE ALL ELSE: As part of the Teacher's Appreciation Night Celebration in the Student Center at Montclair State University, members of the MSA tied inspirational quotes to a balloon around each table. One of those quotes is from Nelson Mandela, which talks about the ultimate virtue that comes with educating oneself. Education is important, because much of the ignorance people have towards differing religions stems from a lack of education. If people took the time to teach themselves about other kinds of religions and the virtues they teach, it would lead to societies where people have a better sense of trust and understanding towards all of their fellow men and women. Muslims can only do so much to educate others about their religion when there are many people who are not willing to listen to the facts. It is up to the rest of us to make an effort to learn about the true beauty of the Islamic culture. If we do so, we have a much better chance to stop the hatred towards the Muslim community, as well as people of any community.