It is that time of the year again, and one of the most well-established Blue Devil Muslim traditions is coming up: Islamic Awareness Month.
Every year after Spring Break, Duke’s Muslim community puts together an array of events in hopes of increasing overall knowledge and appreciation about Islam and Muslim cultures on our beautiful Gothic-istan (I hope I coined this cute term), mainly among non-Muslims.
Organized Muslim communities on campus organize IAM and many other similar events throughout the year, as they see these efforts fulfilling one of the most important, timely responsibilities placed on their shoulders—to be a helpful resource in the community in which all can turn to for furthering education and clarification on pressing issues related to Islam as a religion and Muslims as people. In a time and society where Islam is often grossly misunderstood, all sorts of confusion and frustration occur over issues related to Muslim cultures and Muslim-majority societies.
For many people today, the main source of information about Islam and Muslims is exclusively through popular media. Many Americans have very little or no prior knowledge, or experience, to process the information that they receive through this media. Therefore, IAM and many other similar activities respond to an important need and address the knowledge gap in our society.
The Center for Muslim Life and Duke’s Muslim Students Association, in partnership with several Duke departments, student organizations and local Triangle communities, have put together numerous lectures, film screenings, panels, art exhibitions and spoken word nights in the hope of creating helpful spaces and experiences for members of the Duke and local communities to tackle timely questions and issues around Islam and Muslims locally, nationally and internationally. The content of these IAM events often covers a very broad spectrum from theology to politics, from history to international relations, from various forms of art to media and more.
IAM brings outstanding renowned scholars, politicians, diplomats, clergy, activists and artists from all over the world to Duke’s campus and taps into known and unknown treasures of Duke and the Triangle community. Every year, Blue Devil Muslims raise the bar higher and increase the substance and content of IAM events, doing a huge service to all of us.
IAM activities are far from biased and uncritical “propaganda” as some skeptics and critics might claim. Both in its aspiration and its commitment, IAM is really not a cheap “Islam is a religion of peace, all is rosy” delusional attempt. On the contrary, IAM aims not to leave out any relevant topic or theme, however controversial or sensitive it might be. It gives the participants an opportunity to hear scholars and Muslims themselves address these pressing issues. Most people hear only about Muslims but do not often hear enough from Muslims themselves.
The overall impact of these annual Islamic Awareness Month activities cannot be underestimated. They often trigger rich and helpful conversations and create momentum for further engagements and learning opportunities for those who take advantage of IAM events.
This year’s IAM features Embrahim Rasool, South African Ambassador to the United States, who will be speaking on March 28 in Goodson Chapel at 4:30 p.m. Ambassador Rasool, a Muslim South African scholar and human rights activist, was a close aid and comrade to the late Nelson Mandela. As a Muslim leader, Rasool worked very closely with Mandela on his “Long Walk to Freedom” autobiography, specifically on matters regarding Mandela’s legacy of faith and dialogue.
Famous Syrian pianist Malek Jandali will provide a feast of culture and music in the Nelson Music Room on March 27. His concert is an attempt to honor the victims of the shameful conflict in Syria. On Sunday, March 30, the Duke Coffeehouse will host our spoken word night, where renowned Syrian-American artist Omar Offendum will be featured, along with a Muslim fashion show featuring other artists.
On April 1, one of the most famous young American-Muslim intellectuals, Haroon Moghul, will be discussing hot topics about Islam and Muslims with our very own Ebrahim Moosa. Last but not least, IAM features a premiere of an amazing movie—“Enemy of the Reich” on April 4 at Griffith Theater.
The film is about a Muslim woman, Noor Inayat Khan. Throughout the 1930s, an unimaginable evil tore through Europe, as Hitler’s Third Reich terrorized its way to domination. During these tumultuous times, a young Muslim woman living in Paris found her calling. Khan grew up in a home that fostered faith and hope. Leading with her heart, she overcame her quiet nature and joined Winston Churchill’s covert operation to give the Allies a new chance at victory. This film is her story.
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I hope many members of our Duke family and local residents will take advantage of the rich IAM opportunities by attending these great events. For those of you who attend, I hope that you will be in conversation with Duke’s Muslim community so as to improve its future IAMs. I, for one, can’t wait to see you all there.
The full schedule and details of this year’s IAM can be found online at www.dukemsa.org.
Abdullah Antepli is the Muslim chaplain and an adjunct faculty of Islamic Studies. His column runs every other Thursday. Send Abdullah a message on Twitter @aantepli.