Muslim student group kicks off week of awareness-raising events

The Muslim Student Association is hosting a weeklong event to increase students’ awareness about Islam. The week is in response to a chain e-mail vilifying Islam that Student Government President Nick Phelps forwarded to an SG listserv in January. The week, themed “Unity through Understanding,” is designed to give students the opportunity to ask questions about Islam and debunk stereotypes, said Fatimah Shalash, vice president of MSA. “People are afraid of the unknown or of what is different,” said Shalash, a family and consumer science senior. “Combined with anti-Muslim images and news found in the media, that creates feelings of fear or apprehension towards Muslims.” Shalash said the e-mail was a “step backward from the direction that the university was heading,” but many positive changes have resulted. “With the e-mail came overwhelming support and a new vigor to tackle the cultural divide that has climbed to the top of student leadership,” she said. MSA was established in 1971 and works to give the campus community a better understanding of Islam by lecturing in classrooms, promoting discussions about Islam, participating in volunteer activities and hosting other events, Shalash said. Rebecca Sweeney reports.