Groups of people, lingering by the long-closed henna booths an hour after the Muslim Student Association Night was over, convinced Mohamed Amira that the event was a success
“If they were bored they would up and leave directly,” Amira, the president of Muslim Student Association, said. “But they’re still here.”
Ohio University’s Muslim Student Association hosted MSA Night to entertain as well as educate students and Athens residents alike about Islam and the multitude of different cultures that practice it.
The night began with Quran recitations that reverberated throughout Baker Ballroom. The hastiness of the newly arrived audience quickly dissipated as symphonic verses followed. The evening was filled with speeches from OU faculty members, as well as Athens Mayor Steve Patterson.
Sally Gainey, a freshman studying integrated media who attended the event for the first time, said the raving testimonies of her friends who had attended the event last spring compelled her to see it for herself.
The corridor in front of Baker Ballroom was decked with delicacies from Ali Baba’s, which ranged from warm pita bread and hummus to tabbouleh, a Levantine salad.
Every table had a leaflet with a popular Islamic monument printed on it. The tables were dressed in white, a stark contrast to the technicolor bedouin tent that sat on the far left corner of the ballroom. The tent was draped in plush fabric and decorated with bolsters and platters of dried fruits and nuts.
The ambience was reminiscent of Middle Eastern and African cultures fashioned to transport the people to these regions, Safiya Ahmed, a doctoral student studying civil engineering, said.
“The tent is originally from Khalij countries, like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, also Yemen,” Ahmed said. “The idea is for people to just take pictures and chill and try the traditional coffee (and) dates.”
The rack of traditional clothing next to the tent gave an opportunity to visitors to try on the clothes and take pictures. Ahmed said these tangible experiences helps educate people about Islam.
The hosts engaged the audience by introducing a scavenger hunt, which led people from different tables to interact with each other. Amira, who is also a doctoral student studying teacher education, said one of MSA’s main goals for the event was to engage the audience in social media to maximize outreach.
“Everybody is using social media to reach out to their friends and communities,” Amira said. “So, when other people see your account and they see a glimpse or a photo (of the event), they’ll be curious and it will drive them to ask questions.”
The association introduced the event last Spring Semester with the aim to make Islam more accessible to the students of Ohio University.
Zamzam Jama, a graduate teaching assistant in the school of communication studies, said the overarching theme of connectivity throughout the event made it a unique experience as it drew people closer to understanding not only Islam but also each other.
The interactive element helps illuminate volatile issues, such as those relating to Islam. Jama stressed the importance of visible action when dealing with such issues.
“Presence is powerful just as absence is powerful,” Jama said.