Islam 102 fields interfaith questions

By: Max Bruns ~Staff Writer~

Islam 102 panel_Khalid Alsharahili
Photo courtesy of Khalid Alsharahili | Islam 102 panelists included (from left to right) Dr. Waleed El Ansary, Deena Dakhiel and Amina Darwish.

During several national Republican presidential debates and interviews with CNN and Fox, Donald Trump has gone on record identifying a “Muslim Problem” in the U.S. He has also promised a ban on all Muslims entering the country if he is elected. President Obama has openly objected to Trump’s hostility, and he’s not the only one.

Xavier University’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) hosted an event called “Islam 102” in the Clocktower Lounge to promote education about Islam.

“We, as the MSA, know there is a lot of speculation nowadays regarding Islam, and that there aren’t often means of getting your questions voiced and answered,” the MSA event description said. “We hope that by hosting ISLAM 102, the general public is given this opportunity.”

The question-and-answer format of the forum allowed audience members to ask the panelists any question they wanted about Islam and what it means to be Muslim in the U.S.

Among the panelists were Dr. Waleed El-Ansary, Xavier’s Chair of Islamic Studies, Amina Darwish, Muslim Chaplain from the University of Cincinnati and Xavier student Deena Dakhiel. El-Ansary started the panel off by answering the audience’s question, “What is your favorite thing about your faith?”

“Knowledge is key to love and religion,” Dr. El-Ansary said. “When I discovered that knowledge and the discovery of knowledge is complementary to being religious, that’s when I knew I loved my faith. And that is what I would tell Catholics and Christians too.”

El-Ansary made a point of reaching out in his answers to include people of all faiths. Another question posed was “What is the purpose of worship?”

“Rumi’s words are beautiful when he says, ‘Trying to know God is trying to know yourself,’” El-Ansary said. “From a universal perspective, we believe that the Word was made book. In Christianity, you have the word made flesh. Both faiths try to reach God in different physical ways.”

Darwish talked about worship as being a connection.

“We pray to God five times a day. To worship Him is to know Him,” Darwish said.

Dakhiel, the student panelist, talked about worship and being Muslim in the context of college life.

“Sometimes, scheduling can be hard with having to pray five times a day,” Dakhiel said. “But I haven’t faced anything that hard. I don’t wear a hijab or anything, so I can practice my faith the way I have always practiced it.”

On the hijab topic, Darwish described the fear she has about wearing hers in public.

“I’ve faced discrimination,” Darwish said. “It is no longer required for women to wear one. I don’t mind at all the Muslim women have a choice as to whether to cover their heads, but they shouldn’t be making that choice out of fear.”

Throughout the panel, none of the panelists found it difficult or uncomfortable to answer the harder questions the audience had. Many of their answers tried to tie in a universal connection to several faiths, like when Dr. El-Ansary said, “When Muslims are praying five times a day, they are consuming the Eucharist five times a day.”

At the end of the panel, the speakers demonstrated that it is not difficult to relate to people of the Muslim faith through an open and free dialogue about a subject which has been in the spotlight as a topic of fear and hate recently.

The Muslim Student Association continues to welcome new members of all faiths and backgrounds. If you are interested in joining, contact president Ali Ahmed at ahmeda1@ Meeting times are 5 p.m. Fridays in the Loyola Room, GSC 310.