Last week, the Trent Muslim Students Association hosted their annual Islam Awareness Week. This event provided both outreach to the Peterborough Muslim community, while also providing information on the religion, and deconstructing the common misconceptions that people may hold about the religion.
On Tuesday February 7th in the LEC Pit, an interfaith prayed was held to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community in the wake of the shooting in Quebec. The event began with an acknowledgement of land, and a traditional smudging ceremony provided by TUNA (Trent University Native Association). President Leo Groarke then spoke, acknowledging the importance the event, and the need to stand with the Muslim community. Religious community members were then asked to offer words of prayer upon a voluntary basis.
As the room sat in silence and thought, member after member from different religious backgrounds spoke to the importance of love and togetherness in the wake of tragedy. There were individuals from traditional Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist faiths that offered their words and prayers, as well as some individuals who identified with alternative faiths, or no faith at all who spoke offering their wisdom and condolences.
This event provided the opportunity to mourn, and was important in establishing a sense of community amongst the different religious entities within Trent, and the Peterborough community at large.
As well as hosting an Interfaith Prayer, each day of last week members of the TMSA were available to speak on, and dismiss misconceptions about the Muslim faith in person. On February 7th & 9th, the TMSA had a table set up in the Bata Foyer, with February 8th being outside of Wenjack. Vice President of the TMSA Sahibzada Saif stated that the purpose of the tables was to “create awareness” as well as to “raise funds for the victims of the Quebec shooting.
The physical presence of the TMSA on these days allowed for people to stop by and chat about the Muslim faith. This allowed for anyone with questions or concerns regarding this religion to come and talk directly to those practicing this religion. This functioned to debunk common misconceptions about the religion, as well as, creating again a sense of togetherness within the Trent community.
Finally, on Friday February 10th from 6-9 PM, the final ceremony of the week was held in Champlain’s Great Hall. Although the weather was bad, there were still around 50 people in attendance. Unfortunately, due to the weather, only one speaker out of the planned four was able to make it. The event began with a traditional prayer from both the president and vice-president of the TMSA.
Although the event was smaller than expected, the message remained the same. It is love, and unity that will unite, and not hate.
President of the TMSA Muhammad Arif Khan stated in his opening speech that, “it is very illogical to respond to hate with hate. The only option we have is love.”
After the President’s words, Dawood Zwink from ISNA-Canada came to tell his personal story of, and viewpoints on the Islamic faith. He informed the crowd that the word Islam, translates to Love and peace. He also stated that, “this event is to inform, not convert.”
He continued with a telling of some of the traditional stories of the Islamic faith, and worked throughout to inform the truth, and debunk the mistruths associated with Islam.
This week of awareness, and the specific events included within are extremely important right now. With last year’s burning of the Peterborough Mosque, and this year’s Quebec shooting, it is important to continue the conversation, and information surrounding the Islamic faith to make sure that people are well informed, and not making misguided or ignorant assumptions that can lead to terror and tragedy.
The TMSA did a wonderful job of creating a week-long event that sought to provide this information, while also being easily accessible and open.