Students fight stereotypes

Muslim student groups host events to celebrate holidays and increase awareness.

Freshman Moaaz Elmubark (right) gets food at the Al-Madinah Cultural Center hosted Eidrageous dinner at the Weisman Art Museum on Thursday evening.

Joe Sulik

Freshman Moaaz Elmubark (right) gets food at the Al-Madinah Cultural Center hosted “Eidrageous” dinner at the Weisman Art Museum on Thursday evening.

by Keaton Schmitt

Amid efforts from United States Department of Justice programs aimed at stifling extremism in Minnesota, Muslim student groups at the University of Minnesota are expanding outreach and education efforts in order to combat negative stereotypes.
Islam-affiliated student groups, like the Al-Madinah Cultural Center and the Muslim Students Association, are trying to boost attendance at their events and increase awareness on common misconceptions about Islam after some Minneapolis groups have expressed their skepticism of the DOJ’s Countering Violent Extremism program.
The program, launched last year, is part of a series of pilot programs nationwide that aim to bring together community members in order to counter violent extremism.
Along with the pilot program in Minneapolis, the DOJ has also launched programs in Boston and Los Angeles. 
Last Thursday, the AMCC, MSA and the Somali Student Association sponsored “Eidrageous,” an event celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid open to all students.
The two-day event — which included multicultural cuisine and a wide range of discussions — drew more than 1,000 attendees, organizers said.
While the AMCC strives to remain apolitical, any event or law that affects such a large body of their community, such as the CVE programs, draws its attention, said AMCC President Ahmed Siddiqui.
Siddiqui said the center acts as a safe space for Muslims at the University and contains the only designated prayer space on campus,
Mahmoud Mire, MSA’s president, said the CVE programs are unfairly directed against Muslims.
“Respect has to be both ways,” he said.
Late last month, the State Department’s Foreign Press Center contacted Muslim groups on campus and asked them to help organize a panel for international journalists to learn about how integrated they feel into the community and how much discrimination they face, Mire said.
Siddiqui said AMCC’s goal is to educate people about the different cultures that surround Islam.  Meanwhile MSA primarily focuses on religious education and outreach, Mire said.