McSA aims to “flip the script” of Muslim narratives through weeklong event series

Adrian Wan, Reporter

Through a weeklong series of events showcasing Muslim culture, Northwestern’s Muslim-cultural Student Association hopes to flip the script on the stereotypes that portray the religion as “radical,” said McSA president Sarah Khan.

McSA will invite a group of “extraordinary Muslims” — including rapper Khaled Siddiq, poet Tariq Touré and scholar Shaykh Omar Suleiman — to give presentations and panels for the annual Discover Islam Week beginning Monday, according to the group’s Facebook page. Khan said the lineup of speakers was selected because their goals align with the principles of Islam.

“(The guests) are pursuing achievements or accomplishing things around the country,” the Weinberg senior said. “And their faith gives them the perseverance, support and need to pursue their passions.”

Among the guest speakers is Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a female Muslim basketball player and advocate who started the online campaign “Muslim Girls Hoop Too.” Abdul-Qaadir, one of 15 representatives invited to meet with former President Barack Obama in 2015 for the Muslim Leaders Meeting, will deliver a keynote address Wednesday about her efforts in breaking stereotypes, according to a Facebook post shared by McSA.

Ayesha Rahman, McSA’s director of public relations, said inspirational stories of individuals like Abdul-Qaadir, whose success is “driven by Islamic faith,” will help eliminate biases people may hold against the Muslim community.

In addition to traditional speaker events, the McCormick junior said members of McSA will also be present at a table at Norris University Center between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday, where students can participate in dialogues centered on Muslim culture.

“(McSA) really wants to engage the students on campus to make sure that they get to know more about Islam in a way they never had before,” Rahman said.

Khan said she envisioned the programming to benefit members of McSA as well as NU students in general by clarifying perceptions of Islam and bridging the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“For the McSA community specifically, the event should …  regain some of our knowledge, faith and belief in our culture,” Khan said. “For the larger Northwestern body, we hope to increase somewhat knowledge of Islam among our peers because a lot of students in the campus don’t know the basics of Islam.”

The organization also seeks to cater to the greater Chicago community by advertising the events, all of which are open to the public, at other nearby universities and mosques across the city, Khan said.

Jihad Esmail, a member of McSA, said although the misunderstanding of Islam is not “rampant” at NU, he hopes Discover Islam Week will change some people’s perception that Muslims are “stuck in the past.”

“I feel that the vast majority of Muslims across the world have taken Islam … as a positive motivator not only in their spiritual lives but also in their works and studies and their overall passions,” the Weinberg freshman said. “So it’s a really cool thing to just to show people,‘Hey, we are Muslims, and these are Muslims that are going out of their way and incorporating Islam into what they do every day.’”

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