As the new co-presidents of Islamic Club, Freshmen Shayan Nadeem and Iesha Said are planning to increase the visibility of the club on campus and include more students at Knox.
Nadeem said that not much happened in the club during the first two terms of the year, during which he was a new student at Knox. The very first day of Fall Term classes fell on Eid, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Nadeem and several other Muslim students travelled to Peoria to pray in the Islamic Center. After that, he said, there was not much activity.
Nadeem and Said have been holding executive board meetings every week, in addition to their general meetings. Their general meetings are held on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. in the Ferris Lounge. Nadeem hopes to bring more students, including students of non-Muslim faith, into the club.
“As a new president, my goal is to make Islamic Club not just for the Muslims on campus but for anyone, anyone who doesn’t know what Islam is about, what we do, what the religion is … make it accessible to all the students on campus,” he said.
He is open to having students ask their questions at the meetings. If the members of the club do not know the answer, he said they will get the answer for them.
In another attempt to make the Muslim students on campus more visible and to help more people understand more about Islam, Nadeem is planning an event called “Meet a Muslim” for Fall Term. During the event, students will be able to eat lunch or dinner with a Muslim student. Nadeem thinks this will be beneficial for students or members of the Galesburg community who have never met a Muslim before.
“They don’t know what the religion is, so that event is to meet a Muslim and … not just talk about the religion, but about anything in general. … How the media portrays it, it’s not like that. You don’t know what something is like until you experience it, you just assume,” he said.
Director of Spiritual Life Monica Corsaro is supporting the event and thinks that it is a good idea.
“I really affirm that idea because of media, because of history in the United States, we all have preconceived notions of what a Muslim is and practices and looks like. I think this is a great opportunity for us to tear down those stereotypes, in a healthy, safe way,” she said.
She also noted that the event would give an opportunity to Muslim students, some of whom hail from predominantly Muslim countries, to speak with students of other faiths as well.
Corsaro has been in close contact with the Islamic Club ever since she first stepped foot on campus on May 1. Nadeem said the club tried to meet with her as soon as possible, but had to wait until the next day since she was still filling out paperwork.
Corsaro drove Muslim students to Friday prayer at the Islamic Center in Peoria last week, and will drive them to the center again this Friday for the beginning of Ramadan.
For the first time in six years, finals week will be during Ramadan. Ramadan is the holy month in Islam, in which members of the faith abstain from anything seen as unholy, such as explicit language and content, sex, smoking, etc. Muslims also fast from sunrise to sunset, or 3:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. in Galesburg.
“The seriousness of which this practice is and how disciplined these folks are … that’s something really cool and innate about this discipline, which we as Christians can relate to because Lent is similar to us. We’re called to fast during that time … maybe not to what we consider the extreme, but it’s the same thing, it’s a time to focus on God,” Corsaro said.
The Islamic Club has worked with Dining Services to have food packed for the students to pick up and eat at night, since the cafeteria will not be open during the time in which they will be able to eat. They will also have the Spiritual Life Cottage in the Quads open from 8:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. every day.
Corsaro sent an email to the faculty informing them about Ramadan and that many students will be fasting or be living with different sleep cycles during finals week.
Nadeem urges students to be considerate of their Muslim friends, and be aware that many of them have not had food or water since 3:30 a.m. when choosing to eat in front of them. Beyond not just using bad language or smoking, Nadeem says that Muslims are also supposed to avoid listening to or seeing explicit or unholy things.
“The holy month means we don’t listen to stuff that we don’t say, we don’t eat … so not just committing [to fasting]: listening, seeing from the eyes from the ears from the tongue, all of it is prohibited. É We just want them to be considerate, no bad language, no smoking, no violence, stuff like that.”