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Muslim Student Association Hosts Islam Awareness Week

Friday, February 2, 2007

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Written by May Warren

The Muslim Student’s Association kicked off Islam Awareness Week with a free screening of the PBS documentary Empire of Faith. The film, which spans three hours, tells the story of the history of the Islamic faith and the events that have cemented its place as the second biggest religion in the world. The film sought to counteract many of the misconceptions surrounding Islam, while offering an entertaining recreation of historical events spliced with commentary from expert scholars.

A common thread in the movie was the idea of Islam as intertwined with the West instead of being in opposition to it. In fact, many of the greatest accomplishments and inventions of “western civilization” have their roots in the great Islamic empires. For example, the idea of disease as caused by invisible microorganisms, which later become the basis for germ theory, was originated by Islamic scientists in the fifth century. The idea of the modern hospital and the concept of quarantine that comes with it, also originated out of Islamic society.

The film also stressed commonalities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity, including all three religion’s commitment to monotheism, or one God. This idea of monotheism, one God to unify all people, was one of the core tenants of the prophet Mohammed’s teachings, which the film began by chronicling. The documentary also revealed Mohammed’s strong commitment to social justice and fair treatment of prisoners of war.

The second half of the film chronicled the history of Islam after the death of Mohammed. It discussed the enlightenment of Islamic society while Europe struggled during the dark ages, the development of its thriving textile industry and considerable scientific and scholarly advancement. It stressed Islam’s tolerance of other faiths, the challenges it went through during the Christian crusades and the eventual invasion of its cities by the violent Mongol empire. It ended with a look into the complicated lives of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

After the screening, members of the MSA offered a brief critical analysis of the film, explaining that although it does a good job of recounting historical fact it barley scratches the surface of the meaning behind Muslim beliefs and values. They also stressed the distinction between the era of Mohammed, when the Islamic “empire” was essentially a diffusion of ideas and the time of the Ottoman's, who strayed from many of the original teachings of the faith to spread their influence through military means.

As part of Islamic Awareness week the MSA also had a display in the UC and free fair trade coffee all week.

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