On Monday, April 15, Fairfield’s Muslim Students Association kicked off the third annual Islam Awareness Week with an evening of Baba Ali’s comedy which commented on common Muslim stereotypes perpetuated in the post-9/11 world.
Ali, a convert to Islam and a YouTube sensation, spoke candidly with the audience regarding his experiences as an Islamic man in America as he navigated airports, college campuses and the workplace, encountering challenges and adversity along the way.
For example, the story Ali titled “Muslim While Flying” recounted his experience being stopped by the Department of Homeland Security at the Los Angeles International Airport. Though riddled with jokes, the anecdote simultaneously offered a serious glimpse into the experience of traveling as a Muslim today.
Though much of his routine focused on the misconceptions that exist regarding the Islamic faith, Ali also discussed his personal conversion process as one full of enormous challenges, but also wonderful rewards.
“For the first time in my life, I felt peace in my heart and it had nothing to do with the job I had or the money in my bank account,” Ali said of the conversion process.
According to Ali, the principles of Islam are simple: pray, fast and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. However, he said the practices based on these principles such as daily prayer and fasting during Ramadan, are often difficult for non-Muslims to understand, particularly when they are unfamiliar with the faith.
“For those who are curious about Islam, do not judge based on what the Muslims are doing. Instead, look at what the holy text says,” Ali said. Through the words of the Quran the truth about Islam as a faith dedicated to love and service is portrayed, he added.
Senior Nargis Alizada, co-founder of the MSA, as well as Fairfield’s Islam Awareness Week, agreed. The goal of this week was reflected in Ali’s routine, said Alizada.
“I wanted others to know the truth about Islam, and the American media is not always the best source to go to,” said Alizada. Therefore, the events of Islam Awareness Week were planned intentionally to promote tolerance, understanding and education between Muslim and non-Muslim students, she added.
According to Andrew Schmidt ’14, Ali’s comedy made him aware that there is a Muslim community at Fairfield. “It’s nice to know that there is a good spiritually based community here in this day and age,” he said.
Throughout the week, the events will focus on various aspects of the Muslim experience, both in America and throughout the rest of the world.
In addition to Ali’s comedy, events include a Calligraphy Workshop which will exhibit Islamic art and allow students to try their hand at calligraphy. Hijab Day will allow both Muslim and non-Muslim women to wear a hijab, or traditional headscarf, for a day on campus. A discussion of the experience will follow regarding the reactions of the participants. Finally, the MSA will hold a traditional Friday evening service, called a Jumu’ah, followed by a picnic.
Through Islam Awareness Week, the MSA hopes to promote awareness of their organization and their faith throughout the Fairfield community.
All Fairfield students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend any of these events, said Alizada. She added, “There is no dumb question. We’re out here; talk to us, get to know us.”