Misconceptions About Islam at UBCO

The current events that happened in the past week in regards to the bombings in Paris and Beirut as well as the catastrophes and general sense of loss in various parts of the world, make it a good time for introspection and soul searching. Sadly, a bi-product of these attacks has been the rise in public displays of Islamophobia and discrimination all around us.

The Muslim Student Association, led by Adnan Bhat, held a talk last week on the Misconceptions about Islam; an informative session and open Q&A. The talk offered an avenue for genuinely curious minds on the UBCO campus to actually learn about the tenets and beliefs of Islam from  Sheikh Navaid Aziz, the guest speaker,  who is a chaplain and youth counsellor from Calgary.

As he begun, he greeted the crowd and encouraged the members of the audience to approach the session with an open mind. He went on to touch on many aspects that are highly controversial to the the way Muslims are viewed as well as Islamophobia in general. He spoke extensively about the problems of taking a small percentage of Muslims as representative of all of Islam,  quoting versus from the Quran and introducing counter examples from other religions. He linked these occurrences to the media and their largely reductive and negative portrayal of Islam.

The Sheikh continued by giving a brief introduction to the concept of Sharia Law, explaining its focal point was to protect people, faith, intellect, wealth and honour, and explaining some of the differences that exists between the different ideologies, Sunni and Shia. He also touched on the four types of Jihad, introducing the literal meaning of “Jihad,” or “struggle,” as waging war against ignorance, taking care of parents, and speaking the truth to a tyrannical ruler.

When asked about the Hijab and Niqab during the Q&A period, the Sheikh responded that cultural differences are at the heart of misunderstandings about women’s clothing. He reiterated women’s prerogative in choosing to wear a head covering, and he further reinforced that the most respected/valued member of the home, according to the Quran, is the mother.

Sheikh Aziz wrapped up the Q&A session with a short discussion on how family values and legislation within Islam are very different from Western styles and again pointed at misconstrued understandings of Islam. He also talked a little about Islamic banking in response to a student interested in working in the UAE.

The Muslim Student Association provided snacks and the event was generally a success, more so a success of the mind as many were very open and ready to learn from the Sheikh.There was a lot of media coverage on the event and a good showing from the campus community.


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