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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The Muslim Next Door

Imam Wazir Alis presentation of The Muslim Next Door intermingled an Arabic dialect with familiar Howdy. Ali is the director of the Mercy Community Center and the Imam of the Houston Masjid of Al-Islam. Before he begins to speak, he is introduced alongside the long list of his various degrees including a B.S., R.D. and a soon-to-be M.Ed.
The event was put on as part of the annual Islam Awareness Month hosted by Texas A&Ms Muslim Students Association.
I think events like this create a very good environment for people to learn and broaden their horizons, said junior international studies major Jallal Nagin. A lot of people arent very comfortable with learning about Islam.
The talk begins with the recitation of two Quranic verses from the fourth Surah, or chapter, of the Holy Book followed by their translations. The first Ayah, or verse, speaks of doing good to ones neighbor. The second tells man to speak only good or else stay silent.
Imam Ali began the lecture with a series of optical illusions and an explanation of mental heuristics, which is simply a more academic term for first impressions. He called on his audience to reflect on the images of Islam they are exposed to throughout their daily lives and the mental heuristics that ensue from them.
How you view your Muslim neighbor is going to be predicated upon what mental heuristics are at work in your mind, Ali said.
Throughout the presentation, Imam Ali showed great enthusiasm, making it clear that he is passionate about the issue. Sprinkled with personal anecdotes and football references, his talk made parallels between Muslim values and American values, showing that they are one and the same.
He quoted hadiths, teachings of Prophet Muhammad, juxtaposed with the preamble of the American Constitution. He highlighted all the similarities between them and said that to be a good Muslim, one must be a good neighbor and a good citizen.
A good Muslim neighbor would read the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America and understand what Locke called the social contract, Ali said.
Ali said even though the purpose of religion is to bring out the best in human beings it often releases the worst. He called attention to the ugly parts of both American and Muslim histories to point out that the visions of an ideal world also come with their own price.
Religion has been weaponized. Religion has been politicized, Ali said.
Nagin, said the event had potential to be counterproductive.
I have a problem with us needing to be aware of a culture, Nagin said. Its not like a sickness that we need to be careful off. But I do believe that these events create productive discourse and open the floor to new options, new cultures, and new understandings.
The Muslim Next Door is an annual lecture given every spring and is part of the efforts by the Muslim Students Association to bring awareness to the American Muslim experience.
Its not only for the non-Muslims but its a good reminder for us, too, because we forget what Islam teaches us, said Zonera Javed, sophomore applied mathematics major.

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