Islam Awareness Week 2013

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Last week week, the 30th September – 4th October, was Islam awareness week on campus whereby students not of the Islamic faith could learn more about the Islamic faith from Muslim students on campus and various speakers throughout the week. Allowing students to experience various facets of the islamic faith including listening to passages of the Qur’an (The holy book), letting students write on a board their perceptions of Islam, answering other students questions with regards to faith , experiencing islamic art and cultural aspects such as a mass prayer which was open to anyone and using mehndi (henna) as a artistic reference to the artistic side of the religion.

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It was a wonderful idea by the MSA (Muslim students association) of UCT and being a little more than conflicted I wasn’t particularly certain of my own feelings towards the event.

I admit, i was highly skeptical and somewhat wary of the entire event at first. Similar to the reaction of a wild animal experiencing kindness for the first time. I didn’t trust it, I didn’t want to learn more but i found myself drawn to a topic which seemed strange and somewhat elusive to me. It fascinated me, this topic which was integral to my fathers life, taboo to my mothers and mocked and defamed by many media outlets because of preconceived ideals and common misconceptions fed to the masses by media and reporters who spend their lives rushing to meet deadlines with what is often considered to be sensationalistic hard hitting news. So instead of taking the time to do a little proper research and present the public with facts. The public is fed bite sized portions of propaganda which makes that pill much easier to swallow and believe.

I decided to take a step back from my preconceived ideals with regards to the religion to try and understand it from the viewpoint of a non-believer attempting to understand it ; without letting any of my own history and current interaction taint my perception.

Certain aspects of this awareness week I liked:
– The clothing collection for the underprivileged.
– The talks by various outsiders on the five pillars of Islam, the role of women in islam and the misconceptions of islam.
– The tours of the prayer room and the Jumu’ah prayer which was open to everyone.

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the talk on the misconceptions of Islam and the Jumu’ah prayer but I believe that it was set out wonderfully allowing people of other customs and religions to experience facets of Islam in ways that show what the religion is truly about. I recall the man who had given us the talk with regards to the misconceptions of Islam telling us that the Arabic root of the word Islam is derived from “slm” which encompasses not only humility and unity but peace as well. Others may not agree with me but I find that, that is my interpretation and I find that it does indeed seem that way. The speaker also mentioned the difference between religious and cultural beliefs, regardless of what people believe the two are not always interlinked therefore the cultural customs practiced in Saudi are not practiced in Somalia for example, even though people of both countries practice the Islamic faith. The cultural belief is different. The Jumu’ah prayer was enlightening as well, speaking about the duties of the child to his or her parents.

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The main aspect I disliked about the event are the signs that some of the Muslim students held signs saying “Meet a Muslim” Or “meet another muslim” To me it seemed offensive and belittling to the believers, as if they were a strange anomaly with whom the rest of society is finally coming into contact with.

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The other was somewhat funnier .. But only somewhat

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However I believe that overall Islamic awareness week has actually created an awareness not only about the religion and the various misconceptions which surround it but about the people who practice it and the manner in which they came together to make this event a success. There were no pushy “you must convert” types it was just a beautiful experience.I found myself blessed with a desire to learn more, not because i am meant to (due to my fathers religious beliefs ) but because *I* wanted to. It had nothing to do with either of my parents but rather about what I wanted to learn.

One person remarked that my soul is searching for something more; an inner calm and peace which it has not yet found and I replied that I agreed but my soul strives to learn and I see nothing wrong with learning until I settle and discover what I truly want from life.

Ignorance is bliss is how the saying goes but I believe that to go through life ignorant, is similar to going through life blind and unprepared for the many facets of life that fate may toss my way. Doing that is a sure way to live my life unfulfilled.

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Afrikaans is nie dood nie ( Afrikaans isn’t dead)

I don’t know why but I rage when people make fun of Afrikaans as a language.
Some of you act like total tools when people can’t speak or write in English “correctly” but you think I’m overreacting when you GOOGLE TRANSLATE Afrikaans? Making a mockery of a language or a group of people who speak that specific language is a form of discrimination ( because no, google translate is not an accurate way to translate languages indigenous to one country). I’d love to see you speak afrikaans.

Afrikaans is a truly proudly South African language.
I’m PROUD of the fact that I can understand it, write it and can even speak it.
(Granted,I don’t speak it often because I struggle to pronounce some words but that’s because of a speech impediment ).I then meet people who go on about Xhosa and other African languages that are indigenous to South Africa, berating people who don’t speak their “mother tongue”. Guess what? Afrikaans IS indigenous to South Africa.

Yes, it’s based on Dutch but does not that mean its exactly the same.It just means that there are similarities.It’s completely different, ever looked at American spelling of words vs the British version of the same word?
Our African languages are dying and that includes afrikaans. Unfortunately many associate Afrikaans with the language of the oppressors but guess what? Many of the northern African countries were also oppressed, and they can speak Portuguese, French , Italian etc AS WELL as their native language. Why can’t we do the same?

I’d love to relearn Xhosa even, simply because at my primary school we were afforded the opportunity to learn it. That’s 8 years (including Pre-primary) I spent learning Xhosa AND Afrikaans simultaneously. High school afforded me the opportunity to only learn 1, Afrikaans ( as anyone who had taken Xhosa as a subject instead was expected to speak it fluently by then – the class catered for the Xhosa home language speakers only ).

I love afrikaans. I grew up in South Africa, I underwent 12 years (14 if you include 2 years in pre-primary) of compulsory schooling learning the language. Much in the same manner many others have, but unlike most of them. I don’t detest the language. I embrace it.

I love it.
I find saying certain things means so much more, Afrikaans is so much more expressive, be it in terms of endearments or even cuss words

Ek is lief vir jou – I love you
(If I ever had to say those words and truly mean them, I’d say it in Afrikaans)

Natgenaaidetepeltief – Basically calling someone a slut
(There isn’t a translation for this but it is an emphatic cuss word,that is much more expressive than its English “counterpart”)

So no. I don’t believe I’m overreacting (“as usual”) because I feel like you have insulted some part of my heritage. I do not mock the languages you speak, and Hindi/Urdu etc is not easy.

I’m a BA Language student at the University of Cape Town and I’ve learnt to respect these languages. Granted I might not have done well this semester but it doesn’t mean I can’t try again next semester or even next year.

Language is a gift. It’s a means to communicate with a wider world and you blatantly disrespected that by google translating the text instead of asking someone who can speak it. Like I said before, since when has google become an expert on a language indigenous to South Africa (and wherever else SOUTH AFRICANS have immigrated)

Is that what we’ve come to? Are we so reliant on technology that WE as the next generation will allow a language and culture to die out because we don’t feel comfortable with it? And yes, Afrikaans is a CULTURE as well.

Ever been to a “sokkie” (It’s an Afrikaans social gathering with music , food, conversation and dance- to give a brief explanation )?
Ever had a braai? (A Barbecue is not the same, and never will be)
Ever had biltong? ( Jerky is not the same)

It’s all part of the traditions and culture of a SOUTH AFRICAN language.
Go have a braai in Aussie mate,
Go find something similar to the vibe at Mzoli’s in any other country,
I can guarantee you one thing .. It will NEVER be the same.

You want to live and study here? No problem but this is my home, and Afrikaans happens to be my “French ” or my “Hindi ” or whatever other language you speak in your country, besides English.

The same applies for native Xhosa speakers, or native speakers of any language other than English. How dare you mock them for their “bad” English when chances are, they probably speak English better than you could ever speak their language.

So here is my kudos to you ..

Kudos to those who get mocked for speaking/writing English incorrectly when it’s not even their first language, hell it may not even be their 2nd or 3rd or even 4th.
Kudos to those of you for trying, you’ve done a lot more than many home language English speakers have, I don’t see you breaking them down when they can’t speak your language properly.
Kudos for never giving up, don’t feel any embarrassment based on anything anyone else may say. You’re already doing better than they ever could.