Discover Islam Week (DIW) is probably the biggest event done by the Islamic Society of UNMC.
I attended the talk on Tuesday the 13th of March, which was titled “Are We Better Off Without Religion?” and was conducted by Abu Mussab Wajdi Akkari. To be frank, I did not enjoy it and I was rather disappointed.
Being a Muslim myself, I felt that the way the speaker chose to handle the topic was not very tactful and most of the content was unrelated to the topic as well. Rather than talking about whether or not humans would be better off without religion, the speaker instead initially gave us a brief run down on the basic details and rulings of Islam and why they were put there.
When he went over the major sins, he elaborated on the point of appreciating and taking care of your parents no matter what and that gave me the idea for my first question – what are we to do in the case of abusive parents? (At the end of the talk I did ask my question, however the answer he gave me was rather generic; “No matter what, they are still our parents.”)
As the talk continued, the speaker switched between talking about Islam and berating atheists, even going so far as to calling them “diseased” and stating that the only “cure” for them was to embrace Islam. In the end he did not seem to empathize with nor care about what atheists thought about religion.
During the Q&A session, when questioned about his stance on Atheism, the speaker said that yes, he did respect their rights to their opinion and he hopes they would respect his rights to his opinion on “bringing a cat to this room and hanging it from the projector”.
When questioned about equal rights for men and women, the conversation jumped to the topic of boys wearing makeup and if we were to allow it, who would stop them from falling prey to pedophiles? This led to the topic of homosexuality; “Where do we draw the line?” was a sentiment he repeatedly expressed whenever anything regarding homosexuality was brought up. In his line of thought, allowing rights for homosexuals would be akin to opening a can of worms: “Soon pedophiles would be asking for their rights – where do we draw the line?!”.
I had to bite my tongue so as not to scream that the place we draw the line is consent. However, I did not think the speaker would entertain my query in a constructive manner, judging by how he had been answering previous queries so I stayed silent. I was also not sure whether to laugh or to cry when he stated that feminism as well, was a disease.
However, I feel that I would not be doing justice to DIW if I didn’t talk about aspects of it that I found constructive to their aim of having an open discussion and an exploration of Islam to those outside it, which were the activities on the sisters’ side.
DIW on the sisters’ side was very well thought out. Instead of feeling judged and alienated, I felt welcome. My favourite aspect on their side was “De-mystifying the Hijab”, where they asked interested individuals if they wanted to try on a headscarf and even wrapped it for them if asked. The sisters were friendly and gave insight as to why many Muslim women choose to wear a headscarf. To my surprise, after trying on the headscarf, the sisters actually gift you the one you chose and I was touched by their generosity. At first, the thoughts that maybe they were only nice to me because I was a friend or because I was Muslim lingered in my head, but as I stayed around the booth for a while, I noticed that they treated strangers, Muslim or not, with the same friendliness and respect.
In conclusion, I feel that the only line that should be drawn is the one between a respectful exchange of knowledge and being blatantly offensive and dismissive. Quite honestly, if one were to discover Islam in this week through the talks presented by Abu Mussab Wajdi Akkari, it would definitely leave a sour taste in one’s mouth and a very bad impression of Islam. However if one discovered Islam via a sisters’ activity, it might actually be a pleasant experience as the true spirit of Islam (kindness and acceptance of all) shone through in their activity.
Written by Fathima Shamra Mohamed Rifai
Featured image from Youtube
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGNITE.