To Ayesha Numan and other members of the Muslim Student Association, peace and freedom go hand in hand.
In honor of the United Nation’s International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, the organization held a week of student activities to showcase its message of acceptance.
MSA’s Peace Week also coincided with the Peace Day Philly initiative started in 2011 to raise awareness in the city for the United Nation’s International Day of Peace.
“The MSA is invested in the Temple academic community,” Numan, a senior accounting major and the group’s public relations representative, said. “Socially, academically, religiously – we’re just trying to show that we are all about the community.”
Through activities like a three-minute meditation “flash mob” held on Monday and a peace banner signing on Wednesday, the MSA hoped to encourage the Temple community to come together to not only promote peace, but to allow students to reflect on their own definitions of the word.
“The acceptance to express your religious views, political views, but also the acceptance of those different opinions, that’s really what peace is,” Numan said. “We’re all about unity and community and those are all integral in peace relations – making sure we’re all working together for the same outcomes.”
MSA president Abu Bakr Siddique said the group also used social media as a tool to get their message out.
“We wanted to do small pledges that [people] could do, like daily graces,” the senior engineering major said. “So we started a hashtag, ‘I pledge to make peace by,’ whatever it is, so we wanted people to tell us what they can do to make peace.”
On Sept. 18, the group organized the creation of a human peace sign, an idea that board member Hareem Pasha thought could unite students from all different backgrounds.
Though members said they have not experienced any discrimination against their beliefs first-hand, they agreed that part of their mission is to stress the importance of acceptance, especially now with tensions heightened in the wake of the Aug. 20 assault of a Jewish student during Welcome Week festivities.
“Education is obviously a huge thing,” Salman Patel, a junior neuroscience major and vice president of the group, said. “In terms of [ISIS], they’re obviously a terrible, terrible group of people and they don’t represent Islam in any way.”
Patel said he and other MSA members are by no means experts on the topic of ISIS and that the week was not intentionally started for the purpose of educating people about Islam.
However, both Patel and Siddique said that they don’t feel the Temple community necessarily needs a lesson in being open-minded toward other religions.
“If someone was walking past the Bell Tower and people were meditating, more people stopped by than I thought would,” Patel said. “It definitely made me feel that Temple is a pretty tight-knit community, regardless of what people might say.”
In addition to Peace Week, the MSA holds an Islamic Awareness Week during the spring semester to start a dialogue and to help students better understand what it means to be Muslim.
Last year, the theme of the week was “solution Islam,” and the MSA expanded its focus and partnered with Her Campus and some of the fraternities to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and drug abuse.
Awareness week also opened the floor for topics like women in Islam and family dynamics in American culture versus the Islamic tradition, ideas Patel said people often don’t think about when discussing their faith but are important aspects, nonetheless.
“There are always going to be people that are not going to have anything good to say about anything,” Patel said. “It is important to educate people on what the truth is, but there are always going to be the ‘good guys’ and there is always going to be the ‘bad guys.’”
While Numan agreed that there will always be people with misconceptions about Islam, the group does not feel they have to explain themselves.
“We’re not here to prove anything, we’re not here to show, hey, we’re not terrorists, we’re not the bad guys,” Numan said. “We’re just here to promote peace, and there are people who are obviously going to view us in a negative light, and there is nothing we can really do about that but to show them who we are, and this [week] is one of the ways that we do that.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org