BY HALEY HODGES
Drake University’s newly formed Arabic Club held its first open event on Nov. 7. The club hosted the “What is Islam?” advertised as a dialogue with Imam Yunis and Brother Jamal from the Islamic Cultural Center of Des Moines.
Three other brothers from the Islamic Cultural Center also attended the conversation, though much of the focus was on the Imam and Brother Jamal’s stories.
The Arabic Club hoped the event would be a conversation open to any Drake students interested to learn and ask questions about Islam.
About a dozen people attended, many from the Arabic Club. Students were welcome to ask questions during the event or stay and talk with the brothers after.
Many free materials about Islam were made available to anyone who was interested.
“The men from the mosque really want to hear students’ questions and be able to dispel any myths that people believe or clarify anything that people don’t understand,” Arabic Club president, Kelanie Crosswait said.
Crosswait said she became the president and founder of Arabic Club after her Arabic professor, Esam Boarey, recommended it.
“I really think it’s important to spread the truth of Islam,” Crosswait said. “Even at Drake, which I think is a pretty liberal campus, I’ve heard some really nasty rhetoric here. I think it’s important for Drake students to have opportunities to expose themselves to the truth of the religion and not just to listen to what the media wants them to believe or to listen to comments that people who are uneducated have made about the religion. I want to provide an opportunity for the Imam and Brother Jamal to speak to Drake students and have this open dialogue.”
The dialogue began with brief introductions to the speakers and an explanation of what Islam is.
The Imam talked about the faith and principles of the religion and asked members of the audience to explain what they thought Islam is.
Brother Jamal, said he had been a part of the mosque since 1980, discussed going on the Hajj, a pilgrimage to the holy land to Mecca.
The conversation then opened up to questions from the audience which ranged from beliefs within Islam to current political issues.
“We went to the Islamic Cultural Center of Des Moines and that was our first big event,” Crosswait said. “… That’s where we made the connection with the Iman and then one of the other members of the mosque … They wanted to do it before election day, just in case some people had some of those what-if questions with who’s going to win this election.”
The dialogue was taken as a way for students to learn and ask about Islam in any form and welcomed any questions and comments.
“We want to start a series of discussions about Islamophobia and we believe that the best way to begin this dialogue is to first have a discussion about what Islam is in today’s society, like how many people practice it, what kind of laws there are against practicing it in public places and how people find ways to fit Islam into their everyday life,” said sophomore Isabelle Barrett, the Arabic Club treasuer. “Some people have said that Islam and democracy don’t mix and obviously that’s not the case because we have lots of Muslims in the United States who are still very involved citizens.”
Arabic Club plans to provide more events like “What is Islam?” in the future for more students to attend and learn more about different cultures.
“We’re going to have some more of these panels talking about Islam as a religion and about its role in today’s society,” Barrett said.
While regular meetings for Arabic Club involve students taking Arabic classes to seek help in learning the language, Barrett said the events the club hopes to put on in the future can be expected to be similar to Monday’s talk.