By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
The Islamic Student Association at the University of Mary Washington wants to set the record straight. The group, which has between 15 and 20 members, will be hosting an open discussion on Monday, Feb. 1 titled “The Truth about Islam: Open Discussion on Terrorism, Human Rights and Islam.” The Arab Culture Club and the Office of the Dean will also sponsor the discussion. The event will be held in the Chandler Ballroom and will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The event will host a speaker, Imam Yahya Hendi from Georgetown University, who will be addressing misconceptions about the Islamic faith that have taken place in the U.S. culture for the past few years, according to the event’s page on OrgSync.
Hendi is the first full-time Muslim Chaplain hired by a University, according to Georgetown University’s website. Hendi is also a member and the spokesperson of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America and is currently working on his doctorate in Comparative Religion. He has also published several works relating to women in Islam, women and gender relations in Islam, the coming of the Messiah and religion and Islam in the United States.
According to Islamic Student Association vice president Mariam Khan, Hendi had spoken at the Islamic Cultural Celebration hosted by UMW in 2011.
“I think serving as a chaplain at Georgetown, he has historical and religious knowledge about Islam that other may not, and he has been working with communities all around the world to bring awareness to Islam,” Khan said. “I think he will be able to do that at UMW too.” Issues relating to the Islamic faith have been prevalent in the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania area for several months.
On Nov. 17, there was a meeting regarding a Mosque in Spotsylvania County. During the meeting, a man interrupted Samer Shalaby, a trustee of the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg, who was presenting the proposal. The man, according to a video recorded by The Free Lance- Star, said the project would take “40 parking spots too many.” The man continued, stating “Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult.”
The meeting ended early after it escalated to shouting and expletive-use, according to The Free Lance-Star’s report.
The incident reached national attention from media sources such as Salon magazine, New York Daily News and Vox. The Free Lance-Star’s video of the meeting was shared by Business Insider as well as other news sites and has tens of thousands of views.
Following the event, the Diversity and Unity Committee Chair, along with other UMW students and the Islamic Student Association, became involved with a petition near the end of last semester, where students could show support for The Islamic Center of Fredericksburg by giving their signatures, either in-person or online.
Khan encourages students and faculty who have been curious about the Islamic faith to attend the discussion on Feb. 1, and noted that the event is interactive, giving each person a chance to learn and ask questions.
“This event is meant to be interactive for everyone,” Khan said, “so please come with any questions.”
Khan also pointed out the event is meant to clear misconceptions about Islam, particularly that the religion is based in violence.
“I think the biggest misconception of Islam is that it is an inherently a violent religion and so are its followers, but that is far from the truth,” Khan said.