College students love free things, and starting today students can pick up a Quran and a cup of hot chocolate.
It's not your everyday pair, but the Muslim-cultural Students Association is looking to change that.
Islam Awareness Week, in its 13th year at Northwestern, begins tonight with a fireside talk in Allison Hall. Activities such as speeches, charity fundraisers and even games will continue through the week, with a keynote address on Thursday by Dr. Omid Safi, professor of Islamic Studies at University of the North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The event is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Harris Hall Room 107.
"UNC is a hotbed for Islamic studies," said Mokaram Rauf, a Weinberg junior and executive vice president of McSA. "Islam is compatible and essentially here to stay. It's not something that is going to inherently be in opposition to Western ideals."
The first event, a fireside titled "American Muslims: An Activist Approach," is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. in the Allison Hall lounge. Rami Nashashibi, the executive director of the Inner-city Muslim Action Network, will be the speaker.
Because the first fireside will take place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, McSA wanted to incorporate the theme of activism and community involvement, Rauf said. Nashashibi is a co-founder of IMAN, an organization based on Islamic principles and concepts of community, Rauf said.
The week continues with some of NU's own professors.
History Prof. Rudolph Ware is scheduled to speak about Islam's history in Africa at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Allison Hall lounge.
"There are certain things that everybody - Muslims and non-Muslims - can learn about Islam by looking at the historic experiences and actions of African Muslims," Ware said.
"People usually don't pay attention to African Muslims, but one fourth of all Muslims live in Africa, and they've been doing interesting work there for a long time and it's too often ignored," he said.
Philosophy Prof. Souleymane Bachir Diagne will hold a fireside at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Allison Hall. Diagne will focus on "The Quran: Understanding the Holy Word."
"Whatever denomination you fall under or affiliation you have, the Quran is common among all as a holy text," Rauf said.
Islam Awareness Week is held on campuses nationwide, including Loyola University and the University of Chicago.
Other events during the week include a blood drive on Tuesday at Parkes Hall. The week's organizers aim to teach students about Islam while supporting charities, Rauf said.
Money raised throughout the week is donated to various organizations. Last year, McSA donated to the Orphan Fund of Islamic Relief USA's Sponsorship Program. This year it plans to donate to Doctors Without Borders for Darfur. Rauf said this reflects a major tenet of Islam: charity.
McSA also hopes to teach people about Islam in a fun, interactive way.
"In the current political environment, I think it's incumbent upon all kinds of students to learn a little bit more about Islam and its diversity and move beyond the very surface images that we're usually confronted with in our current political and social situation," Ware said.
Students will be able to play Islamic Jeopardy, decorate themselves with Henna tattoos or pick up a free Quran - a new addition to this year's festivities - at informational booths at Norris University Center and the Technological Institute. McSA will also hand out free hot chocolate at The Rock throughout the week.
"If people do have certain stereotypes about Muslims or Islam, and we can do anything to get them to understand it better and remove that stereotype, that would be huge," said Ashar Wasi, a McCormick junior and public relations vice president of McSA.
Reach Emily Glazer at firstname.lastname@example.org.