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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Fireside discusses images of Islam

In order to put forward a more accurate image of Islam, Rahma Bavelaar spoke at “The Perception of Islam in the Contemporary World”, a fireside put on by Interfaith Living and Learning Community Monday night.

Bavelaar, a Ph.D. candidate in Art History and teaching assistant for Introduction to Islam, led the discussion at Foster-Walker Complex. Bavelaar converted to Islam as a freshman at the University of The Netherlands almost ten years ago. She spent two years working in Cairo at the Islam Online office.

About 15 students attended the session, which began with Bavelaar showing two videos with contrasting depictions of Muslim culture. The first, titled “Planet of the Arabs,” portrayed images of violent Muslims, while Americans were shown as smarter and heroic.

“These images create the idea that Muslims are very different from us, when in fact they are very similar,” she said.

The second film, “A Land Called Paradise,” showed different types of Americans in quick succession, all Muslim and holding signs with slogans such as “Jihad hijacked my religion.”

Catherine Arrom, a Weinberg freshman, said that she thought the event was an eye-opening experience.

“I never thought about Muslim culture in such a concrete way,” she said. “Taking an hour to confront a religion that is not my own is a way to challenge myself to be open to new ideas and ways of looking at the world.”

Arrom, who lives in the Interfaith Living and Learning Community within Foster-Walker, said that she will definitely attend future firesides throughout the year.

“I think it’s worthwhile to think about someone else’s faith and enter someone else’s world to think about how we all relate to each other,” she said.

The fireside was organized by Interfaith’s executive board, said Saleha Mallick, the group’s secretary. Mallick, a Weinberg junior, said that the board wanted to continue the fireside tradition from last year. After considering several topics, they decided on Islam in the contemporary world as their theme.

“We have two people in Intro to Islam, and it just worked out that (Rahma Bavelaar) was able and willing to come and do this with us,” she said.

Bavelaar said the movie pointed out that Muslims are not always Arabs. In fact, the largest group of Muslims in the United States is not Arab, she said.

“Forty percent of all American Muslims are African-American Muslims,” she said. “Arabs are not by a long stretch the largest group of Muslims in the United States.”

Mallick, who is Muslim, said that she was pleased with the path the discussion took.

“I felt like it created a good representation of what the Muslim faith is like because just like Christianity, every Muslim is different,” she said. “Being characterized as Muslim just because you’re Arab, or Arab just because you’re Muslim, is such a misrepresentation.”

Bavelaar said that this idea of what it means to be Muslim was one of the main points that students needed to remember.

“What the West does is mirror or appropriate an image that some Muslims project,” she said. “Muslims themselves don’t fall into the trap of this objectification of Islam.”

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Fireside discusses images of Islam