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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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Dialogues on Islam clarify beliefs

MSC Hospitality hosted lectures that debunked misconceptions about the Islamic faith and created interfaith discussions about religion.
Students of all ages, cultures and religious backgrounds filed into Rudder Tower Tuesday evening to take part in the International Dinner Series.
The theme for the lecture and open discussion was: “Islam: What Do You Know?” and it was an endeavor to increase student knowledge on both the religion and culture of Islam. Students were welcomed to attend and receive a full-course meal provided by Shiraz Shish Kabob, and enjoyed informative lectures by a number of well-versed speakers on the topic.
“We’ve hosted numerous culture events similar to this one in the past. We’ve had German, Italian, Latin, Japanese-themed dinners and recently a Middle East one as well, but we realized it was such a broad and often misunderstood culture that we decided to offer a focus on the misconceptions,” said Mary Romeo, MSC Hospitality chairwoman.
Program director for the event, Michael Stockert, teamed up with Romeo and Shannon Parma, the executive in charge, as well as other colleagues and representatives of the Muslim Student Association to ensure that plans were of the highest grade.
“I spoke with various members of the association and they gave good suggestions for guest speakers, lecturers and food provisions,” said Stockert, a senior political science major.
Stockert opened the event with an introduction of the first speaker, Professor Amine Benzerga, who is a development associate in the department of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M. Along with Benzerga’s accolades, he memorized the Quran at a young age and is highly involved in educational outreach and community service activities.
Benzerga presented an introduction of the religion to both those generally informed and those entirely unfamiliar by naming and explaining crucial aspects of the religion such as Allah, the Quran and the prophets.
“The purpose of this event is to help people better understand the religion of Islam, regardless of one’s experience in the subject. I wish to foster interfaith dialogue to limit misconceptions, increase tolerance and improve public life experience. In this way, the record will be set straight for those who truly wish to learn about Islam,” Benzerga said.
Benzerga continued, touching on various beliefs and pillars of Islam and even provided excerpts with translations from the Quran.
He was followed by post-doctoral lecturer of the A&M English department, Asmahan Sallah, who focused on clarifying and explaining misconceptions that surround the religion. Some of the subjects discussed included the true meaning of jihad and the important, non-oppressed role of women in Islamic culture, among many others.
Senior biomedical sciences major, Ahmed Haque, followed Sallah’s lecture by offering the audience a powerful consideration of the difference between tolerance and respect.
“Tolerance is something you might give a neighbor or a stranger, as in ‘You can live your life and I will live mine.’ But respect is a result of an attitude that rests in the idea that we might not necessarily agree with the things some people believe, but we are willing to learn about them and hopefully grow to respect them,” Haque said.
Each lecture was followed by a period of open discussion in which the audience was encouraged to ask the speaker questions.
Junior psychology major Zach Gulde said he attended the event because of his interest in different religions.
“I think it’s great that the University hosts these kinds of events. It is beneficial to expose people to unfamiliar subjects that might be normally misunderstood, especially in a conservative place like this,” Gulde said.

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