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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What is it with people and celebs?

Seriously, people tend to like or do whatever their favourite celebs do.
A celeb can make a stupid status on Facebook and at least 100 people will still ‘like’ it. Uhmmm helloooo? Do you not have a brain… you know that thing in your skull… yeah… Shake your head hopefully if something rattles it hopefully is in there although it may be a tad small or if no sound comes out just hope its soo big it takes up all the space in your cranium.

People tend to dress and act like their favorite celebs. They make them out to be heroes or gods. Seriously people

Robert Pattinson did NOT stop world hunger, he just played a fairy in a movie
Chris Brown is NOT the poster boy for the United Nations Anti-Violence Against Women Campaign
Wearing your pants down low so the world can see your underwear is NOT cool, you’re not a rapper in Bronx or wherever. You’re NOT 2pac. Seriously how the hell do you expect to run/duck and roll with your pants that low when some dudes trying to shoot you? You’re going to DIE
Yes girls in Celebville its “OK” (Note the sarcasm) to be super anorexic or bulimic they can afford all those lovely medical bills that go along with it, plus they always seem to get better after months of rehab before they relapse again. In REALITY you will more often than not DIE

People don’t realize that Celebs need us waaay more than we need them. They’re placed on a pedestal in society because they can sing/dance/act/write/direct etc, apparently better than everybody else, but who’s the person that decides that they are better? Who gives them THAT much power? We do.

Can you imagine what life would have been like if…

Nelson Mandela wanted revenge instead of peace?
Florence Nightingale went on strike because she wasn’t getting paid enough?
Alexander Fleming decided he didn’t want to work 16hr days with little wage and quit his job, BEFORE he discovered Penicillin?
Hippocrates believed magic healed people… yes, washing in whatever animal’s blood WILL cure you…

And those are just a few names of people who changed the world, people who taught forgiveness is better than revenge. People who proved helping others is worth a lot more than money. That resilience pays off… sometimes in a small way and sometimes in a really big way.

So many teens want the celeb life they see on TV, they hear about on the radio, they read about in magazines. So think about this… Do you really want to become a Celeb? Do you really want your life to be a media circus?

No privacy. People digging through your trash, people making up lies to sell a story. People digging up your past. People you thought were friends selling your story to the highest bidder. Cameras invading your personal space, everywhere you look. Everywhere you go. Not being able to make one “tiny” common mistake without the world critising you, like you were the only one on the planet to do it. People judging you at face value, without even knowing you. Stalkers following you, threatening you. Are you sure you want all of that? It’s not the pretty life celebs make it out to be. It’s a far cry from perfect.

But

What if you want the hype? The drama? The glitz and the glam? What if you give in? what if you want the life, Crave the life, that in the end drove so many before you into the “comforting” world of alcoholism and drugs? The life that took their lives.

What then?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t like these people because I would be lying if I said I didn’t like a few. Just get your priorities straight. So many people sideline everyday, normal people that help them because their eyes are on the stars, when whoever said “reach for the stars” he/she never meant people we see on TV, people we listen to on the radio, people whose books we buy or movies we watch, he/she meant to appreciate the beauty around you. Life at its best, not people playing a character. Real people. Real emotions. No script. No director to shout cut. No retakes till its “right”

In the end, it’s all about balance. Like these celebs but don’t worship them. Don’t try and emulate what you see them do on TV, that’s just scripted if something goes wrong they can just retake the scene. But you. You can’t retake your life. Value the people around you, people you see, people who love you as you love them. Not some celeb in “Far Far Away”. They have their own families who love them. They have their own friends. Live your own life, not the life of a TV character.