By: Sara Douglass – News Editor
The Muslim Student Association of William Paterson welcomed all students to look past the media’s perception of their religion and come learn for themselves during Islamic Awareness Week.
Mariam Hammouda, president of the MSA, said the two main events for the week are the Fast-A-Thon, which is a day long fast followed by a discussion in UC-209. The Fast-A-Thon will be held April 20. The other event, ‘What is Hijab,’ was held on April 18. This event gave students the opportunity to wear and learn about the headscarf worn by Muslim women.
“I want to be there to tell you that fasting is not as bad as you think it is,” Hammouda said. “Once you actually go through it, there’s a whole other purpose, it’s not just no eating and drinking for a month, it’s a month of appreciation for what you have.”
According to Hammouda, Islamic Awareness week is extremely important considering the current political climate with President Trumps’ travel ban on some Muslim majority countries. It is important to spread awareness now to avoid further incidents that stem from Islamophobia and racism in general.
“Media tends to demonize and dehumanize Muslims. They try to send out a message that all Muslims are bad,” Hammouda said. “This makes it harder for Muslims to talk about it and to explain themselves and it brings on a lot of physical and verbal attacks and abuse.”
Members of the MSA are hoping to show who they really are rather than how the media chooses to represent them. Hammouda, personally, wants people to know that the way she is dressed is how she feels most comfortable and she is in no way forced or oppressed into doing so. The media depicts Muslim women as oppressed and abused and she wants to change that.
“I’m not any of that. That’s not me,” Hammouda said. “I want to go out and show people that I can speak, this is my voice, I will not shut up. This is who I am and this is who we are.”
Hammouda said that if she had not had the experiences of bullying and abuse from people around her she would not be spreading awareness like she is today. She is grateful for the amount of support she has received from both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities at WPU.
Although Hammouda does not support the current Trump administration, she said because of the hate he is spreading she has seen more and more people step up against the hate.
“I think it’s great that people are stepping up now and I think if Trump wasn’t in office people wouldn’t be stepping up the way they are,” said Hammouda. “It’s amazing to see that people are not scared, they’re just stepping up, they’re defending people, and that’s the only positive side throughout everything.”
Regarding the current situation in Syria, Hammouda thinks that U.S. intervention is not going to make a difference because the nation is already in such a weakened state. She said the solution is to try and remove their government but people need to leave the country so the US should let them in.
“We have a lot of students that are children of immigrants, you see these people and they have families,” Hammouda said. “I am a child of immigrants, I have family in Egypt, and the reason that we are even here today is because we did not have the opportunity that we have here, over there.”
Islamic Awareness Week will end tomorrow, April 21, with an event hosted by the MSA and the WPU chapter of the Students of Justice for Palestine. It is going to be a paint night exhibiting Palestinian art and history.