Drexel University’s Muslim Student Association celebrated their annual Islam Awareness Week from April 13-17. The theme of the week was M.E.R.C.Y with each day celebrating a different letter of the acronym. It stood for me, empowerment, respect, compassion and you, or as Numan Dugmeoglu, the vice president of DMSA, referred to it, “Mercy is a bridge from me to you.” Many of the events also highlight different Islamic values such as prayer, fasting and the hijab.
The events included Tabling on April 13 where passersby were invited to throw darts at a board of balloons, which after popping revealed notes with inspirational quotes about Islam. It occurred at the Dragon statue, under the name, “Ask Me, I’m Muslim.”
On April 14, at the Dragon statue, the theme was empowerment. MSA students invited others to try on the hijab, the traditional Islamic veil or headscarf, to take pictures and explained why they felt that the garb was empowering rather than oppressive. Noor Jemy, the MSA’s treasurer, explained, “I don’t wear this [hijab] for my ego, for L’Oreal or for my husband. I wear it for the One who knows me better than myself. I wear this for the One who forgives me more than my own mother. I wear this because I have submitted in slavery to the One who has liberated me spiritually. I wear this for God, because He told me to do so. I am not oppressed. I am free. More free than anyone can even think to be.”
On April 15 at the Quad and April 16 at the Dragon statue, the themes were respect and compassion, with events that had students put handprints on sign which read, “We all have our differences, and our differences unite us” on the first day and a rose giving on the second. There was also a fast-a-thon dinner April 16.
The week culminated with a public Jumu’ah, Islam’s Friday prayer service, April 17 at Buckley Field and a sermon by visiting imam and Islamic scholar Khalid Latif, who is the Chaplain of New York University’s MSA. The topic of Latif’s speech was “The Path of Mercy: Lessons From Moses and Jesus,” which incorporated thought from Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions and tied it to the overall theme of mercy.
This is third year in a row that the MSA has held an Islam Awareness Week in the spring and both Dugmeoglu and Jemy said that they had been planning this year’s celebration for months. “We know that we hold it every year, and with this knowledge we began brainstorming interactive activities around mid-winter term when groups to plan each day were decided and meetings dedicated solely to Islam Awareness Week were held,” Jemy explained.
“We try to promote the true meaning of what Islam is, which in it’s most core sense is peace. A majority of the DMSA members (30-plus students) come together in the weeks prior to IAW and get into groups to plan each day of the week. There are lots of artwork, creating of posters, buying of supplies, planning of games, executing of games, ordering of roses, compiling of quotes, staying up late and even midnight runs to get last minute supplies, all to make the week as superb as it was last week. It’s a lot of dedication and our members, many of them freshmen and experiencing their first IAW, loved it and cannot wait for next year’s. It won’t come soon enough,” she continued.
April 16’s event, which focused on the Islamic value of fasting, also served as fundraiser. For every student, Muslim or not, who pledged to fast, the MSA also pledged $5 to the Zakat Foundation of America to support an orphan. They got enough pledges to support an orphan for a year.
Dugmeoglu also explained that in previous years IAW had a different structure, which consisted of inviting mostly different speakers for the Muslim community on campus. However, last year they decided to try a different approach of going out onto campus and having events to make their presence known. “Last year they adopted a new format to just kind of be out there, raising awareness that we are on campus. We have a presence, and we are just like you,” he said.
According to Dugmeoglu, in past years the DMSA’s Islam Awareness Week has been very successful in the growth of the DMSA’s activity within the campus community. Jemy also thought it helped in raising awareness of Islam and everything the DMSA does to the community outside Drexel.
“I believe it was very successful. We got a lot of community involvement and so many people stopped by our tables each day and came to our fast-a-thon and the main event [of the lecture]. We were able to raise enough money from the fast-a-thon to sponsor an orphan for an entire year and the DMSA will be doing so on behalf of the Drexel community.”
The DMSA’s IAW comes on the heels of their win at the “Battle of the MSAs.” The event is an intercollegiate competition akin to Greek Week and features participation from many MSAs from Philadelphia schools. Details about the orphan to be sponsored will be available soon on the DMSA’s Facebook page, Jemy said.