The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday January 19th

Muslim Students Coordinate Week of Islamic Awareness

The MSA will be in the Pit until Thursday in honor of Islamic Awareness Week, an annual event sponsored each November by universities across the nation.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the group will present information on specific aspects of Islamic culture, such as the Koran, the role of women in Islam and the religion's societal contributions.

In addition, MSA will perform its weekly religious prayers at 1 p.m. Friday in front of Wilson Library to allow passers-by to witness a central part of their religion.

MSA Secretary Sarah Khanani said that every year, members meet soon after the week's completion to discuss potential improvements.

Khanani said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompted the group to host information sessions for the campus. She said these sessions possibly detracted from this week's events and lowered their attendance.

But at the same time, Khanani said she believes the attacks heightened the importance of Islamic Awareness Week.

"This year's event is very special in a tragic way," Khanani said.

"Sept. 11 affected us just as much as anyone and, on top of that, people are pointing fingers. Most people don't realize that of the many victims, 400 or 500 of them were Muslim."

Sabiha Mannan, a senior originally from Bangladesh, said suspicions about Muslims after the attack have given the group further incentive to educate others.

"Now more than ever, people want to know about Islam, just because of the things going on in the world," Mannan said. "It's Muslim people who did this, so they think it's in correlation with our own beliefs. We're just out here to educate people."

Khanani said she appreciates the support of UNC's Muslim population, professors who devote themselves to studying Islam and members of the student body who have expressed interest in Islamic Awareness Week.

Omar Ayad, a freshman psychology major, said UNC has provided an especially open atmosphere.

"No one has attacked us but been very tolerant," he said. "Some people even came by and said that they're glad we're doing this."

Members of N.C. Hillel, UNC's Jewish organization, also contacted members of the MSA, asking to learn more about their religion and culture. As a result, the two organizations met Tuesday night at the Student Union to discuss the similarities and differences between their respective religions.

Khanani said the MSA also performs year-round outreach programs at local middle and high schools. But she acknowledges that Islamic Awareness Week is a chance to attract attention on campus. "We've noticed that every year people seem more and more interested," she said.

Amadou Diop, a sophomore from Senegal, West Africa, says the event is geared toward those students with no prior knowledge of Islam.

"I consider myself more informed about Islam than the average American, but I think the posters are very informative for beginners," Diop said.

"And with all the prejudices at present, I think this is an important event to avoid future ones."

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