Photograph by Allyn Suzuki
The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) hosted an assembly and speaker series on Thursday, April 19. The assembly was broken into two main parts; an informative presentation and a panel with student speakers. The presentation explained the Muslim faith and other aspects of Islamic culture. Presenters also addressed the ways that Muslim people are treated by non-muslims, and explained how Muslim women choose whether or not to wear the hijab. The purpose of the assembly, according to one of the co-presidents of the MSA, Nishat Sheikh, is “to achieve our goal of reaching out and working to educate the community on what Islam stands for.”
The presentation began with explaining the five pillars of Islamic faith: Shahada, Salaah, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj. These five pillars are the foundation of the belief system; declaration of faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. Zakat requires every Muslim person who can to give 2.5 percent of their wealth to charity.
“The way that Islam requires every able person to give a set amount of their wealth to charity goes to show how the whole religion is based on very humanitarian values,” said Sheikh.
The presenters went on to debunk a few myths about Muslims in the US. One main message they were trying to convey was that “Muslims really don’t fit into the stereotype that much of the world has set up for us,” said Sheikh. The presentation explained a few holidays: Eid-al-Fitr, the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan, and Eid-al-Adha, which marks the end of hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Many of the panelists said Eid-al-Fitr was one of their favorite parts of being Muslim.
The panel discussed Muslim women and the hijab. They explained that women wear the hijab to keep their modesty and to be appreciated for their mind and not their physical beauty. The presentation said, “the purpose of the hijab is to empower women with the ability to control who gets to see her beauty.” Sheikh performed a spoken word piece titled, “The Weight of Silk.” She spoke about how she was made to feel about her choice to cover her hair. “The moment I draped the silk over my head I felt the weight of the world and its judgement,” said Sheikh. Ashaimaa Alawgarey also performed spoken word.
The presenters also discussed how Muslim women are treated, sharing some rights that women have in Islamic law. A few mentioned were that Muslim women have the right to work, get an education, and divorce. The presenters said that much of the abuse towards Muslim women comes from non-Muslims. The slide shown said that 69 percent of women who wear hijabs reported one instance of discrimination.
The panel had a different combination of students each period. Questions came both from the audience and the hosts.
“[By] providing a platform for us to speak, and not excluding us from the list of marginalized groups,” said Sabreen Imtair, MSA co-president, when asked how BHS can support Muslim students. Another question asked if they felt women should be treated differently based on their relationships. “Who you’re with should not determine your relationship with God,” said Perez-Brown. Other panelists agreed, and said that women should be able to do what they want without judgement.
Jenn Hartmann, a Communication Arts and Sciences English teacher, said the assembly reflected “the diversity of experiences within the Muslim faith.”