Noha Ayoub, a sophomore majoring in law, history and culture, was surprised by the student body’s willingness to learn about Islam.
Ayoub helped plan the Muslim Student Union’s 10th annual Islam Awareness Week, which started on Monday and brought renowned keynote speakers such as scholars Dalia Mogahed and Ustadh Usama Canon to campus.
Ayoub, who serves as secretary of the MSU, is extremely passionate about educating others on the religion and said she hopes to create a sense of community and solidarity.
“My hope is to create conversation where there would not have been within the student body in particular,” Ayoub said. “For us, it’s about connecting to our student body, so that other students are aware that we’re here and that we contribute quite a bit to our community on campus.”
The Muslim population at USC has only grown over the past few years, and the USC Office of Religious life estimates that there are up to a 1,000 Muslim students on campus.
This means that the Muslim population makes up 2.3 percent of the student body; these Muslim students being both American-born and from Muslim-majority nations such as Indonesia.
Muslim Student Union President Aamna Asif, a junior majoring in health and human sciences, explained that the week is one of the most important events of the year for the organization, and that the central goal this year is to inform students on how to navigate and comprehend Islam.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about our religion and the events that we’re holding this week are aimed to clear up some of those misconceptions,” Asif said.
Through activities such as dinners with Muslim speakers, mosque sermon visits and calligraphy workshops, Asif hopes to continue developing a stronger Muslim community and to foster a diverse, yet unified identity in the larger USC community.
“I feel like there’s this whole other side to Islam, the actual side of Islam that no one knows about,” Asif said. “We’re trying to get those people that want to learn, that want to be informed, instead of formulating their opinions on what a select few people that don’t know anything about the religion have to say about it.”
In light of the current presidency and political climate, Ayoub explains that she hopes the event will raise support from other students.
“There is a huge population of Muslim students at USC who deserve to be treated with respect. Respect comes from understanding,” wrote Kathleen Sullivan, a sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering, in an email to the Daily Trojan. “As a university, it is our job to educate the future citizens of our country and the world. I think the best way to get to the point of understanding is to meet and get to know people so you can put a real face to Islam.”
While the University has vocally supported visa-holding students and those affected by President Donald Trump’s travel ban order, the Muslim Student Union wants to see explicit policy stances from the University.
“We want to know that the University will fight for us in a lot of ways,” Ayoub said. “Without that knowledge, I wouldn’t say we feel unsupported, but we want rather to feel that we are integral members of the community, not just students who can increase the diversity statistic on our pamphlets.”