The Muslim Student Association (MSA) has been presenting its annual “Spring into Islam” event series throughout the past month, with its last public event, a cultural calligraphy night, occurring this Wednesday evening. The series has included workshops, discussions, interfaith programming, prayer services and cultural events to present various highlighted aspects of the religion to the larger Tufts community, according to MSA President Obaid Farooqui.
Tufts’ Muslim chaplain Celene Ibrahim explained the topics which the “Spring into Islam” events have covered so far.
“We’ve held events on the intersections of racism and Islamophobia, on domestic relief efforts spearheaded by Muslims in the United States, on American-Islamic relations at the grassroots levels and on the struggles and triumphs of minorities running for public office,” Ibrahim said in an email to the Daily.
Beyond the community programming, she also noted that
Farooqui, a senior, noted that he is pleased with the audience that the MSA has reached through this programming.
“We’ve definitely gotten some really inquisitive people which has been good,” he said. “I feel that people have felt that they can come to our events because we’ve seen people that we’ve never met before.”
Farooqui said he hopes that through “Spring into Islam,” the Tufts community will ultimately learn more about the the Muslim community and be open to further interaction with the MSA.
“The overall goal…is for Tufts students to have a chance to interact with their fellow Jumbos who are Muslims, to form an impression of Islam and Muslims from their interactions with us, rather than from something that they might get somewhere else and to be a good first introduction to what Islam is,” he said.
He also emphasized that interfaith programming is an integral part of the group’s initiative.
“We’ve always had some kind of an interfaith component [to these events] …and we try to give people a taste of different aspects that they might not otherwise get from the daily dose of the news,” Farooqui said.
Ibrahim also noted that she works closely with the MSA “to convene interfaith conversation, to dispel the many gross misunderstandings of our religion, to lift up enduring facets of cultural life and to shine light on a number of important contemporary conversations.”
University Chaplain Reverend Greg McGonigle also emphasized the importance of collaboration by the interfaith community.
“We are delighted that this year’s ‘Spring Into Islam’ dovetails with a new initiative being led by Tufts’ Interfaith Student Council — our first ever Interfaith Awareness Month,” he wrote to the Daily in an email.
MSA Interfaith and Social Justice Chair Amina Mohamed said that events like these are important for people to learn about Islam directly from members of Muslim communities. According to Mohamed, a sophomore, “Spring into Islam” events help Muslim students and the Muslim community take control of their own narrative to provide a more direct source to the students and faculty on campus.
“Oftentimes, the source for learning about Islam is coming from mainstream media, and not from Muslims, and this can be problematic because it always tends to send a singular message about what Islam is that isn’t necessarily true,” Mohamed told the Daily in an email.
McGonigle believes that while the MSA holds a series of events event Spring semester, it is especially important to offer these programs on campus now, given the recent rise in Islamophobic rhetoric in the United States.
“I think it is a positive sign that many people at Tufts, on all of our campuses, are wanting to learn more about Islam and find ways of being better allies to the Muslim community, starting here on campus and extending into larger social contexts,” McGonigle said.
McGonigle also explained that one of the best ways to become educated about religious and philosophical diversity is by forming relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.
“These programs help people to have a direct connection with Muslims who are fellow students and colleagues at Tufts, and to learn from them what is important about their faith and culture here and now,” he said.