With the aim of promoting cultural diversity and changing social
perceptions about Islam, the UCLA Muslim Students Association is
putting on Islamic Awareness Week.

Leyla Ozgur, an Islamic studies graduate student, gave a lecture
Monday night titled “Diversity of Tongues and
Cultures,” which highlighted diversity within the Islamic
faith.

The presentation was part of the Muslim Students
Association’s greater effort to “debunk stereotypes
through the beauty of our religion,” said Norah Sarsour, a
first-year English student and chair of the programming committee
for Islamic Awareness Week.

Ozgur focused on several different aspects of diversity,
including race and ethnicity, as well as gender, religion and
religious beliefs, thought and opinion, and socioeconomic
conditions.

While quoting passages from the Koran, Ozgur relayed
Islam’s perception of various forms of diversity, both within
the faith itself as well as those who practice it.

Another focus of the lecture was to illustrate some of the
unique aspects of Islam as compared to other religions. Islam
allows for different perceptions of the faith and highlights
individuality as well as group experience.

“Islam claims no monopoly on truth,” Ozgur said.

Khadeeja Abdullah, a fourth-year physiological science student
and practicing Muslim, said that the presentation both affirmed
some of her beliefs and taught her new things about her faith.

“At the core of society’s problems with racial
discrimination is arrogance, and it’s great to learn to
humble ourselves,” Abdullah said.

Sarsour said that some of the goals behind Islamic Awareness
Week include highlighting the diversity of the faith and defining
the word “jihad” by its true meaning ““ personal
struggle ““ rather than in the context of terrorism, where it
means holy war.

“Really, we are trying to portray the aspects of our
religion that aren’t known and analyze the aspects people
assume are part of our religion but aren’t,” Sarsour
said.

Beginning with Monday’s diversity-focused presentation,
the rest of the week will help students understand the common
misconceptions about the meaning of the word jihad, women’s
rights in Islam and other issues that often go misunderstood.

“Not all Muslims are Arabs and not all Arabs are
Muslim,” Sarsour said.

Some students in attendance Monday said they were open to new
conceptions of the Muslim community.

Tamara Hahn, a third-year international economics student and
Christian, said that she learned a few things about Islam,
especially in comparison to Christianity.

“I don’t have any assumptions about Islam because
most assumptions are from one person, and that usually
doesn’t represent the whole picture,” Hahn
said.”

“One of the things I found interesting was when (Ozgur)
said that the Koran had never been changed because that is one of
the things that always makes me wonder about the Bible ““
it’s been changed so many times throughout history,”
Hahn said.

Though many Muslims are involved in the week’s events, the
primary focus is to educate those on campus who are not of the
Islamic faith, Sarsour said.

Islamic Awareness Week is being advertised to non-Muslims
through Bruin Walk tabling, where henna tattoos will be available
to passing students, as well as in-class presentations, Sarsour
said.