Discover Islam Week recovers from controversy

Islamic Society successfully rounded up Discover Islam Week last week (Week 6), an annual awareness-raising event consisting of talks by notable speakers, interactive discussions and a meal that engages students in the community in order to promote a better understanding of Islam.

The Sheikh from York Mosque giving an informal talk on fasting on the night of the closing dinner. ©Hazel Yuen

This stands in sharp contrast to the mass controversy that erupted last year over the invitation of Islamic scholar Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari to speak at one the events.

Parties such as Amnesty International and StandforPeace accused the scholar of propagating ultra-conservative views that deviated from those that represent the Muslim student population, days before he was due to give his speech.

Then-ISOC chair Dinah Salah hit back against the comments by stating that societies had been “recklessly sensationalising” his views, and that these actions would serve to alienate Muslim students from engaging in the Students’ Union.

Discover Islam Week is also hosted by ISOCs across many other universities in the UK, such as Cambridge, Sussex and UCL.

Of the past week’s events, current chair Omar Rashid Raja stated: “The knowledge of Islam varies quite a bit within various communities. Within York, many of the people are informed about Islam from tabloids rather than discussions with Muslims and that is why we are keen to host Discover Islam Week in order to promote a better understanding of Islam and offer a platform for discussion.”

Speakers this year included British imam, broadcaster and politician Ajmal Masroor, who spoke on love and relationships, as well as Muslim thinker and international speaker Adam Deem, who gave his speech entitled: “Is there a need for God?”

The society experienced a slight hiccup when Muslim scholar Muslema Purmul, who is based in the United States, was unable to attend her event on Thursday, but ISOC quickly replaced the talk with a more interactive discussion on concepts of happiness and spirituality that drew about 50 participants.

Participants helping themselves to a spread of Middle Eastern cuisine at the closing dinner ©Hazel Yuen

Raja further pointed out that the turn-up for each of the events was “very good” considering the fact that YUSU’s introduction of new regulations in terms of advertising events has made it relatively difficult to engage students outside the members of the society.

Discover Islam Week also drew participants outside the student community such as York resident and History teacher Maysoon el Gomati, who said: “I really enjoyed the overall social aspect of Thursday and Friday evening, whilst the Adam Deen talk was extremely interesting and thought provoking.”

The event was ended with a Halal dinner hosted by ISOC at Halifax’s JJs that was open to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

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