A group of MU students noticed that certain religions were being misrepresented, and it didn’t seem like anyone was doing anything about it, so they took matters into their own hands.
More than 30 students met Thursday in Bengal Lair in Memorial Student Union for a pilot testing of the program My Book, Your Book, Their Book, No Book.
“We want to clear the air and be comfortable talking about religions,” said Nourah Shuaibi, Chancellors Diversity Initiative ambassador.
The program comes from the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative office, with support from the Muslim Student Organization, Fourfront, the Saudi Student Association and the CDI Ambassador program.
This event covered Islam. Panelists Rafa Nizam, Amanpreet Shinger, Shallu Singh, Nourah Shuaibi and Farah El-Jayyousi told stories about how they have been stereotyped because of their religion and answered questions from the audience.
“We hope to interact more and realize we aren’t that different after all,” El-Jayyousi said.
The panel talked about the difference between culture and religion, not being afraid of the unknown, and that it’s better to acknowledge and celebrate differences than be blind to them.
Charlie Parker, coordinator of diversity programs for the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, said the program started with a focus on Islam because stereotypes of the religion have become more prominent in the past decade.
But not everyone on the panel was Muslim.
Shinger and Signh are of the Sikh religion but often get mistaken for being Muslim. They talked about how some of the hate crimes against Sikhs were intended for Muslims, but people don’t have enough knowledge about the two religions to distinguish them.
One such example is the shooting that happened at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin during the summer.
Most of the panelists agreed that they have also been guilty of stereotyping other religious groups, but interacting with those groups has helped build an appreciation for them.
My Book, Your Book, Their Book, No Book hopes to have more events and include other religions.
“We hope to have it two times a semester,” Parker said. “But we don’t want to force it anywhere it’s not naturally going.”
At the end of the event, everyone closed their eyes and imagined a time when they lost someone, when they were proud of themselves and when they did something for the first time.
When they opened their eyes, Shuaibi talked about how everyone in the room is not that different: “Every single person went through those same things.”
Upcoming event: Learn about the Sikh religion
When: 8 to 9:30 p.m. Nov 8
Where: Chamber Auditorium, MU Student Center