By Nadim Nyker
Islam is a religion which revolves around ideas of absolute virtue. It promotes piety and establishes the world as a medium through which to attain the virtues of the hereafter. It promotes tolerance of others; its aims are stated unequivocally in the Holy Qur’an. It is a religion not open to innovation, in which this principle is known as Bida’t.
Despite this, it is probably the most maligned and denigrated religion when it comes to its portrayal in the media. Where, more often than not, the concept of terrorism is aligned with Islam. Islam is equivocal with extremism.
I mean, when was the last time you watched an action movie where a recently shaved terrorist didn’t raise his hands to God before committing whatever evil Hollywood required? The list of “Islamic terrorism” movies drags on, to name a few; all of the Taken movies, Body of Lies and United 93.
But when Leo Di Caprio’s piercing blue eyes aren’t saving the world, driving the heavily sensationalised War on Terror, Islam can be seen for what it is; a religion that advocates peace, with a deep cultural and spiritual beauty.
The Muslim Students Association (MSA) hosted the annual Islamic Week from 3-7 August. This time, their aim was to promote a more nuanced understanding of the religion and to set the record straight.
“The aim of I-week was to raise awareness and knowledge of Islam on campus, in an attempt to create understanding and unity between us students, and to dispel any negative ideas the media may have given anyone about Muslims,” said MSA Vice President, Riyadh Casoojee.
The society set up a stand outside Rhodes University’s Postgraduate Commons. The MSA girls taught students how to tie hijabs and society members were available for any questions passersby had about Islam. Various lectures were also held throughout the week.
Mufti Siraaj gave a talk on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) at the Rhodes University Jamaat Khana. The talk dealt with the anti-Islamic regime, discussing its extremism and secluding it from Islam and its values.
“With regards to issues such as ISIS and terrorism, we ensured from the get-go that we’d address the issue to dispel the negative ideas of Islam the media carries,” Casoojee reiterated, “[We] ensured that in our discussions with people at the stand that all understood that Islam is a message of peace and that the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught us that the way to speak and interact with people is in a respectful and peaceful manner. We are all human after all.”
Moulana Kharsany gave two talks at the Zoology Major lecture theatre. The first was titled, “Women in Islam”. The lecture addressed the stereotypical views that western media portray in regards to Islamic women, their dress, and position and value in Islam.
Kharsany’s gave a second lecture titled, “The role of Maryam RA and Isa AS in Islam”. Maryam Radiallahu anhu and Isa Alaihi Salaam are what Muslim people call Mary and Jesus respectively. The lectures occurred on 5, 6 and 7 August respectively.
The week was “successful, it caused the discussions we were aiming towards,” says Cassoojee. “Personally, my favourite part was conversing with people at our stand; how open-minded and open to discussion they were. I made many friends whilst talking to them about my religion, and I’m happy that that’s the case.”