‘Discover Islam’ event features discussion, comedy

The University’s Muslim Student [email protected]@[email protected]@ put on its first big event of the year Friday night at Willamette Hall called “Discover Islam.” More than 100 people came to see the event, which was planned to both educate attendees about Islam and to lay the foundation for future MSA events.

“The MSA was not an active club,” Event Manager Omar [email protected]@[email protected]@ said. “The reason why we put (the event) on was to teach our members how to do an event. Most importantly, we wanted to raise awareness on campus.”

“Discover Islam” began with a Quran reading and transitioned into a video produced by the MSA. The video showed the varying levels of beliefs and ideas people on campus have about the basic customs and holy figures in Islam.

“To be honest, a lot of people on campus that we encountered had very good knowledge of Islam,” Hagrass said. “A lot of people are teaching themselves, or being taught about Islam. However, a lot of people we asked also said, ‘We don’t know.'”

The event also featured two highly-regarded guest speakers in the Islamic community. Dr. Hatem al-Haj, who has a master’s degree in Islamic law, spoke about different misconceptions people have about Muslims. He said these misconceptions are a result of misinformation that comes from a lack of context.

“I think human beings are very capable of adaptation and adjustment,” al-Haj said about the changes collegiate Muslims have faced since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. “People started to adjust and adapt, and it’s gone back to not exactly the way it was, but things have calmed down.”

After al-Haj’s presentation, the event continued with a comedy show by Azhar Usman, a world-renowned Indian-American Muslim comic. Usman’s show was centered around his own life as a Muslim from Chicago while also mixing in deeper messages about human existence. Two of his longer acts focused on his experiences with people at airports and on the street.

“I think about comedy as speaking your point of view,” Usman said. “I want to talk about stuff that I really care about, and for me that happens to be religion, God — things that are really important to me.”

As people filtered out of the lecture hall toward the post-event dinner, Hagrass said he was pleased with the event.

“By doing these kinds of events, we have a very successful night,” Hagrass said. “We had a successful turnout to send our message to other people, and I think a lot of them got it.”

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