Viewpoint: Trip to mosque builds bridges, links campus and Kalamazoo Islamic Center community
Farhan Iqbal, Kalamazoo
Islam is the world’s second largest religion and has shown a significant increase over the last decade in many countries, including the United States. Recognizing the need for more education about this growing faith, the Comparative Religion Department at Western Michigan University recently brought Alisa Perkins, a specialist in Islam in America, onto its faculty. I was one of the first students to enroll in Perkins’ Islam in America seminar this past fall. As an international Muslim student from Pakistan, and an aerospace engineering major at Western, I was eager to learn about how Americans view Islam and about Muslims’ experiences in America.
For my term project, I came up with the idea to organize a visit to Kalamazoo Islamic Center for the wider campus and the surrounding community, and was able to do so with the help of Perkins, Imam Hafiz Nauman from KIC, and the WMU Muslim Student Association. On October 22, several dozen people met in front of Waldo Library to walk to the mosque as a group.
When we arrived, Imam Hafiz Nauman welcomed us and gave us a tour of the center along with a brief introduction on Islam and how Muslims pray, including an explanation of the reasons for gender division at the mosque. After the tour, we all sat in a circle for a Q&A session. While enjoying hot drinks and snacks, we discussed connections between Islam and other faiths; misconceptions about Islam in the media; and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Visitors also learned about KIC’s history, which was founded by WMU students in 1972. Some were surprised to learn that Imam Hafiz himself is a Western alum, having graduated with an advanced degree in engineering in 2005.
Organizing this event was important to me because it way for me to help give my fellow students the chance to gain a kind of knowledge that they might not have had otherwise. “I never would have gone to the mosque on my own,” said WMU nursing student Maggie Murgittroyd. “This is in part because I know it is a holy place, but also because it was an unknown. Imam Hafiz was incredibly approachable. He has a great deal of knowledge about religious history and the local community. I really enjoyed going hope to continue to learn more about Islam.”
Because of the first visit’s success, we decided to make this an ongoing event taking place once each semester. The next visit will be at 10 a.m. March 20. Please check out the comparative religion website for more information on this event, which free and open to all: www.wmich.edu/religion.
Farhan Iqbal is an engineering undergraduate student at Western Michigan University.