Break down false stereotypes

Every Friday at 1:30 p.m., the Muslim Students Association sponsors the Jumaa Prayer (Friday prayer) at the Union in the den on the first floor. Muslims and non-Muslims are invited to attend. The MSA serves to diffuse false stereotypes and build friendships between Muslims and non-Muslims at the U.

“Our goals are to promote peace and education to all students on campus, also to work for the betterment of the Muslim and non-Muslim community on campus through community service, education and social activities,” said MSA President Asim Ahmed. “We are concerned for others’ welfare of all faiths and beliefs. We also encourage justice and peace.”

According to, 2.1 billion people worldwide practice Christianity and 1.5 billion people adhere to Islamic beliefs. At the U, membership in the association is more than 200 students.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, transformed life for Muslims in the United States as Americans struggled with fear of terrorism. Even in Utah, Salt Lake City resident James Herrick, in a drunken daze, attempted to burn down a restaurant owned by a Muslim family who immigrated to America from Pakistan.

Since the Crusades of the 7th century, extremists of both Christian and Islamic faiths have been at war. Advocates for a peaceful dialogue between the two faiths say we should look for similarities rather than differences in our beliefs.

Although a culture of distrust exists between Christians and Muslims, some have said the conflict has more to do with politics and varying cultural world views than religion.

“You can’t generalize (that) Christianity was at fault for the Crusades or that Judaism is responsible for what Israel is doing to the Palestinians,” said Mohanad Mossalam, a Muslim student in pharmaceutics. “So much of the Middle East conflict is political and spearheaded by just a few individuals.”

Last week during a visit to the U, Sister Marianne Farina, a nun and theology professor from the University of California, Berkeley, said dialogue between the two religions must be focused on insight, not debate or conversion. The word Islam means “submission” or the total surrender of oneself to God, not terror.

In his inauguration speech, President Barack Obama pushed for mutual respect and relationship building with our Muslim neighbors.

“People will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy,” he said.

It can be difficult to develop a willingness and interest to hear new ideas, but this Friday, participate in the Jumaa Prayer at the Union. Attending will give a richer and fuller understanding of another culture and the beliefs. We can do our part to break down false stereotypes by investing our time to understanding and relating better to our neighbors.

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Liz Carlston