UC Students Combat Muslim Stereotypes By JUDITH SCHERR

Tuesday March 07, 2006

The message of this year’s annual Muslim Awareness Week was even more urgent than in previous years. 

On Friday, more than 200 Muslims, a few non-Muslims, and some media came to UC Berkeley’s Pauley Ballroom for Jum’uah—prayers that mark the end of the week. It was the final event of Muslim Awareness Week, which had included lectures on Malcolm X, women in Islam and Palestine. 

“There’s a negative image (of Muslims) in the media with the issue of the Danish cartoons,” said Bushra Ahmed, as she waited with friends for the prayer service to begin. “They were hateful, violent images.” 

Still, the violent reactions to printing the cartoons cannot be excused, said Rami Bailowy. They were “over the top.” 

The community gathering was also a time for the diverse group of Muslims at UC Berkeley to come together—they were bearded and clean shaven, veiled and not (though all women wear veils during prayers). Those who stood with hands open in prayer and then bowed their foreheads to the ground were people reflecting many races and countries of origin, from the Middle East, to the Far East and including the United States. 

UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian led the prayers and delivered a sermon that seemed directed more to the visitors and media than to those in prayer. He called for greater understanding and urged people not to collapse the notion of Muslims, Islam and the prophet Mohammed. He said: “Muslims are humans, afflicted with all kinds of spiritual diseases.”  

Bazian said he could write books critical of Muslims, but those would not reflect on Islam, but on human frailty. 

“Look at us as humans,” he said. “Don’t think you are better than us, or that we are better than you—we are struggling like you.” 

And he talked about the Prophet Mohammed. 

Islam “is not a cult of personality,” he said. “(Mohammed) is a human being and a prophet, a perfect human being.”