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Cambridge University Advancing Islamic Awareness Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Omar S. Roomi, United Kingdom Feb 22, 2004
Citizen Journalism   Interviews
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CAMBRIDGE, 3 February 2004 - Cambridge University, last week, held a program of events to promote awareness of Islam, organized by their Islamic Society. The university, that energizes the small town where it is based, is the hub of international intellect with over 2500 Muslim students; however, there are many non-Muslims who remain in the dark about important aspects concerning Islam. These were addressed through a series of illuminating lectures by experts in their field.

When asked about the significance of this event at such a renowned institution, Iqbal Nasim, Vice President of the University Islamic Society highlighted the goal to inform and educate the community to provide a sound understanding of the Islamic faith. Nasim emphasized that misconception about Islam especially concerning the status of women and the exploitation of the term Jihad must be addressed. This is essential even though the considerable number of Muslims at the university shows the community’s tolerant and understanding nature.

“All this has a further importance against the backdrop of Cambridge: it is vital that the leaders of the future, who will wield significant influence in the world, have a correct understanding of the world's fastest growing phenomenon”
Intissar Khreeji, a first year Law student at King’s College, Cambridge explained what she hopes will be achieved by Islam Awareness Week; “I think that the majority of people have certain preconceptions, as the media tends to sensationalize Islam and talk about extremist figures who aren’t representative of the Islamic community, but I hope that over the course of this week the society will take the opportunity to discover more about Islam, and some of these myths will be dispelled”.

Sheikh Zayyed Lecturer on Islamic Studies, Dr Timothy Winter pointed out that a great majority of radical Islamic groups do not succeed. “They have no permission from heaven to succeed.” He was speaking to a plethora of intelligentsia at a packed lecture theatre on Jihad. In his keynote address, the distinguished scholar educated at Oxford and at well-known establishments in Saudi Arabia and the UAE said that “people do what anger dictates and mutilate classical texts.”

An expert on classical Islam, Dr. Winter highlighted that extremists have moved away from the true teachings because they are impatient with their formulation. The academic noted the problem with extremist mentality. “The west is vulnerable in every way except military. Terrorists go and attack the strongest point in the enemies’ defences.” He believes that the concept of a ‘warrior saint’ does not exist in Islamic culture and this is a problem for the western mind, pointing out that the west has had a more violent history than any other part of the world. “Total war is a European understanding,” he said, remarking that the targeting of civilians is not an option for Muslims. The scholar stressed that the killing of minors and women is not acceptable and that compensation must be provided to those who have been wrongly killed. “It is the obligation of a Muslim ruler to come to the aid of non-Muslims if they are being oppressed.”

During the extensive question session that followed, Dr. Winter emphasized that Muslims and non-Muslims alike should learn from the greatest achievement of Classical Islam, that of the unity between the four madhabs (Islamic schools of thought) although they have differences. “This is unique in religious history. A foundation that we should believe in.” He called on the audience to appreciate that the ideal for human conduct is found in the prophetic model.

Awareness week also invited Shabir Ally who spoke on the significance of Jesus in Islam and Sarah Joseph, editor of the recently founded Muslim lifestyle magazine, EMEL, based in London, who discussed the status of women. Massoud Shadjareh, Chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission expressed outrage at the treatment of those at Camp X-ray likening their conditions to those of cats and dogs in a cage. He was also concerned at the treatment of Muslims in Britain. “We walk in the same streets and take our children to the same hospitals. Why are we being seen as the enemy within?” he questioned citing the shocking state of Muslims stopped at ports for 8-9 hour interrogations. Shadjareh quoted a verse from The Quran commanding Muslims to protect ‘those who are oppressed.’ He added that religion is not the issue. “Justice in Islam is blind to nationality.”

Apart from these contentious issues, the basic tenets of the faith were presented in talks on The Quran, the five pillars of Islam, and The Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) as well as Islamic art. While over 2 million faithful thronged Mina for the Haj, a presentation was given on this annual pilgrimage. Questioned about the popularity of the week’s events, Sara Hakeem, a main organizer of the awareness week was delighted with a packed hall for lectures and the high turnout for the evening talks, especially those about Jihad, women in Islam and Jesus. The audience included both Muslims and non – Muslims symbolizing the quest for knowledge by many in Cambridge.

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Sandi Rankaduwa | Aug 21st, 2006
I think this is a wonderful idea; the all-too-common misconceptions concerning Islam must be addressed, and initiatives like this can truly promote acceptance of cross-cultural differences.

Patricia Sudi | Mar 7th, 2007
I think its great.Most people associate the muslim faith with apart from marginalizing the women and girls,terrorists tendencies.We should have more and more of such teachings on the muslim faith to help the world understand what it entails.

Kirsten Jordan | Mar 25th, 2007
What a great idea! I have been fortunate to grow up in environments that have promoted understanding of what Islam entails (Turkey and UAE). But for many they do have a clue what Islam really is and just associate it as a fanatic and terrorist-driven religion which is completely untrue and unjust. Unfortunately, media focuses on the negative and not on the good of what the Muslim world accomplishes. People are aware of the terrorism associated with Islam, but not of the kindness of this religion. By creating cross-cultural awareness it is helping to eradicate ignorance.

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