Civic engagement and involvement are an essential part of any religious community and this is certainly the case with the Islamic Community of Muncie and central Indiana. Specific members and the community as a whole have worked together to promote benevolent and peaceful causes both locally and internationally. These efforts are listed below.
“AWAKEN is a not-for-profit organization formed to enable Afghan individuals and families to become literate and self-sufficient. AWAKEN endeavors to fulfill this mission by assisting its Jalalabad office with the planning and development of programs that will provide educational opportunities, vocational training, health care services, and emergency assistance to Afghan families, particularly women and children.” AWAKEN was founded by Mrs. Bibi Brahmi, a member of the Muncie Muslim community. Brahmi was an Afghani refugee of the Soviet era who immigrated to the US in 1986. If you would like to learn more please visit www.awakeninc.org.
PEDAL FOR PEACE
Brahmi also helped to organize the Ball State Center for Peace and Conflict studies’ team for Pedal for Peace, which “supports organizations throughout the world that are committed to peace through education, especially for girls and women “. This event takes place yearly in downtown Indianapolis and is comprised of a 6-hour bike relay along with other physical activities. Fifty percent of its proceeds from 2010 went to help AWAKEN. If you would like to learn more please visit www.pedalforpeace.org.
MUSLIM ALLIANCE OF INDIANA
The Muslim Alliance of Indiana “is dedicated to connecting Muslim Hoosiers across the state of Indiana while changing the public image of Islam and Muslims. MAI also provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim Hoosier communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations. Furthermore, MAI seeks to strengthen the communication between Muslims and law enforcement to better assist victims of civil rights and hate crimes”. MAI also holds a yearly conference in which all are welcome; this year’s theme was ‘Nurturing Civic Engagement’. Members of our group were able to attend, please take a look at their blogs to read about their experiences and visit www.indianamuslims.org to learn more about MAI.
BSU MUSLIM STUDENT ASSOCIATION
“Muslim Students Association (MSA) aspires to elevate our fellow Muslims’ spirituality, and to educate Ball State University (BSU) students and the community of Muncie about Islam and its principles. The Muslim Students Association of Ball State University intends to dispel misconceptions about Islam and Muslims and to demonstrate a more accurate view of Islam as a major global religion. Muslim Students Association exists to serve as a resource for information about Islam and Muslims. MSA seeks to support Ball State Muslims students in their religious, educational, social, dietary, and other daily needs. All BSU students and Muncie community members are welcome to MSA activities and events.”
Examples of Interactions with Muslims at BSU
Our research group was able to attend several events sponsored by MSA during the fall semester. The community Iftar dinner took place early in the semester in accordance with the Campus Christian house. The event was open to all and aimed to unite people of all faiths and educate non-Muslims about Islam and the holy month of Ramadan.
One person from our group attended one of the weekly MSA meetings, which are open to all BSU students. In this meeting the group discussed plans for Islamic Awareness week and current events in the media.
We also attended several events throughout Islamic Awareness week, sponsored by MSA. These events included several panels aimed to help educate the BSU community about Islam.
One panel was entitled ‘Women and the Hijab’ and was led by Mrs. Heather Adburrasheed-Wagner who explained the basic tenants behind the purpose of the veil. Audience members were able to openly ask questions about the hijab, some of which can be found below:
Q: Where can you purchase your clothing and hijab?
A: Usually the Internet has the best selection, but some women choose sew their own.
Q: When can you remove the Hijab?
A: When at home with family members or with other Islamic sisters
Q: How do you exercise/remain active?
A: Many women exercise at home or at a women’s only gym; there are also ‘burkinis’ for swimming
A second panel discussed “Islamophobia” and included speakers from the department of Religious studies, A Christian Pastor and a member of MSA. The panel members discussed their view of Islamophobia and media relations in today’s global world. One significant issue brought up was that of the Cordoba House; planned to be built in lower Manhattan. Audience members were able to ask questions about commonly held but not necessarily true ideas.
Throughout our study we have heard from local Muslims about community reactions in Muncie. Most have agreed that Muncie is a very accepting and friendly community, but a small number have experienced some discrimination. One woman spoke of her daughter being attacked and having her veil pulled off by a non-Muslim peer at a local school; no disciplinary actions were taken. Another woman was verbally assaulted while driving in her car, but chose to ignore it. It is stories like this that have lead our group to help non-Muslims understand Islam in Muncie and to help prevent future stereotypes and discrimination.