Campus / News / October 26, 2011

Islamic Club mixes it up with faith discussion

Some of life’s most pressing questions were recently wrestled with at Islamic Club’s second biannual Faith Mixer. On Wednesday, Oct. 19, students joined the Faith Mixer, which sought to promote interfaith dialogue on campus and help students with their personal beliefs.

Alongside Islamic Club were representatives from Hillel Club, Newman Club and the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, as well as students affiliated with no campus religious organization, to discuss the night’s theme: “How we practice faith.”

As Islamic Club president and the night’s moderator, junior Rana Tahir, said in her opening remarks, “We have to foster a conversation.”

That is precisely what happened as participants sat in a circle and discussed a wide variety of topics related to their religious faith, from a trivial anecdote of how the Catholic Church has officially ruled that capybaras are fish for the purposes of Lenten fasting, to profound discussion of the true meaning of faith.

Other topics discussed included the relative importance of following restrictions on eating habits, the value of ritual in reinforcing beliefs and perhaps most in keeping with the night’s theme, whether or not faith was best practiced by oneself or in the larger religious community.

Freshman Peter Buiting of Newman Club found the event highly beneficial. He said, “It’s good to know how others feel.”

Sophomore Lauren Styczynski, a small group leader for the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, had a similar view; she said that the night “was a nice re-affirmation of my own faith.”

Students present nearly all agreed that a sense of community was essential to their faiths and spoke on the difficulty of being on a largely secular campus instead of at home with their families for major observances.

Many of those present were happy to see a place on campus where they could discuss their faith openly without fear of judgment and expressed concern that the greater Knox community is not always the most receptive to people of faith.

“Knox, in general, is slightly hostile [to religious belief],” Styczynski said. “There is this very academic idea that intellectual people don’t believe in God.”

Buiting agreed, commenting, “Knox tries to be hostile to religion.”

Tahir thought the prevailing mood was instead indifferent.

“There are people who are hostile and people who are supportive. Still, no one is going around saying ‘Happy Rosh Hashanah,’” she said.

She and the rest of the Islamic Club recently went out of their way to change that, and in a show of interfaith support, used their board in Seymour gallery to wish their fellow Jewish students a Happy Holy Day, thus providing a small blow against prevailing media images of Islam and Judaism perpetually at each other’s throats.

Islamic Club began these events last year in the aftermath of Florida pastor Terry Jones’ plans to hold a Koran burning day to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. These events showed Tahir and others that political discourse on Islam is often wildly inaccurate.

To combat this, the club aimed to “celebrate the positive aspects of religion.” Having had an excellent turnout last year, they decided to keep staging these sorts of events.

In the end, “we want to change how religion is discussed,” Tahir said.

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