- Islam Awareness Week
Islamic Society of Britaininitiated Islam Awareness Week in 1994, to raise awareness and remove misconceptions surrounding Britain ’s second largest faith group. In 1997 the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia by the Runnymede Trustconfirmed the existence of widespread prejudice and discrimination against Muslims in Britain. Their report, 'Islamophobia - a challenge for us all' (1997), launched by the Home Secretary at the House of Commons, proposed sixty recommendations, one of which was the desperate need for awareness and understanding of the true teachings of Islam. This was confirmed by the Commission’s second report on Islamophobia launched in 2004.
Unfortunately, Islam and Muslims are often portrayed as unreasonable, fanatical, intolerant, violators of human rights and anti-women. These popular images come down from age old myths and fears, often fuelled by political and economic interests and sometimes reinforced by the publicity given to extremists on the margins of Muslim society. They have led to prejudices and negative feelings about Islam and Muslims.
These misunderstandings breed suspicion, discrimination, racism and even violence. The organisers believed that these misconceptions had to be removed if Britain was to develop as a truly multi-faith country. Only then can all faiths experience the joy of living together. They believed that through awareness and understanding the British people can create better relations, develop tolerance, respect and harmony in their society. The national Islam Awareness Week (IAW) is an opportunity for all of Britain to come forward and show their solidarity in addressing the threat posed by Islamophobia in the UK.
The UK’s 1.6 million Muslims consist of a diverse community, representing many backgrounds, colours and languages. They can be found in every field and walk of life, and play their part in contributing to Britain's wealth and culture at all levels. Indeed, Islam is no longer a foreign and strange religion practised by people living in other countries. It is very much a part of every day life for many Britons. In fact, the majority of Muslims in Britain were born here. Islam commands its followers to respect, preserve and strengthen all that is good in British society.
Islam is not a new religion. It is not specific to any people or region. It is a message to all to live in service of their Creator, of good and virtue and in service of each other. In Islam, there is no compulsion or coercion in matters of faith and religion. Tolerance of differences is an essential part of this paradigm. During Islam Awareness Week Muslim communities throughout the country will be organising a range of activities and events aimed at giving information about their way of life, developing contact with individuals and institutions, promoting social interaction and celebrating art and culture.
2006: "One World"
One World reminds us of the global village that we inhabit, that the world's concerns and problems are ours to both share and solve together, and that the things that we have in common are more significant than the differences that are perceived to exist between us.
What is interesting but unknown about Muslim communities in Britain is that they are the most diverse in the world, where communities from Africa, Asia, the Far East, Eastern Europe and the Middle East contribute to the expression of Islam in today’s multicultural Britain. More importantly, they contribute to and live alongside all the other communities and peoples that are so integral to today’s multicultural Britain. Today’s multicultural Britain is therefore a perfect and unique microcosm, a miniature version of our One World here in one place.
2005: "Past and Present: 1000 years of Islam in Britain"
In 2005, Islam Awareness Week told the tale of two peoples as never told before. The Islam and Britain that was never known. Knowing that Britain is currently in a climate in which misunderstandings and hostility are all too common, 2005’s theme was critical to help unearth historical truths in order to carve a new public consciousness, one of commonality and inter-dependence.
It told a story of kings and paupers, of soldiers and sailors, of alchemists and anatomists and of mosques and universities. The story was one of interchange, of dialogue, of political alliances and of friendships from across continents and cultures. Above all it told the tale of interplay between Islam and Britain, of ordinary men and women here in Britain, of communities shaping themselves and of revolutionary ideas that shaped the Britain we have today. Today's Britain would be very different without Islam!
A specially commissioned publication introducing this history was produced for Islam Awareness Week 2005. By highlighting this relationship it was clear to see that the presence of Muslims in the British Isles is not just a recent phenomenon and also helped raise awareness of the mutually enriching role that Islam and British culture have played in the past and continue to play today.
2004: "Your Muslim Neighbour"
The theme for IAW 2004 was 'Your Muslim Neighbour' and highlighted the often unnoticed contribution made by Muslim neighbours, co-workers and citizens in enriching British society. At the heart of 2004's activities was the desire to bring British communities together in neighbourliness and understanding.
These projects aimed to build bridges and break down misconceptions, harnessing the very strong ethos within Islamic teachings relating to taking care of one's environment and one's neighbours - all of which are common concerns.
2004’s launch was at
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatrewhere, as part of the theatre’s Shakespeare and Islam Season, there were readings, recitals, lectures, a souk and other special events.
2003: "Muslim Heritage"
The focus of IAW 2003 was Muslim heritage and culture. Societies advance through the combined efforts of diverse people, past and present and IAW 2003 demonstrated the part played by Islamic civilization in influencing contemporary ideas about science, medicine, mathematics, architecture, music and the arts.
Through the use of diverse media, the week highlighted Islam's contribution to a wide variety of subjects, from the construction of language with words such as
rice, coffee, magazine, sandaland castleall originating from Arabic terminology, to the role played by eminent Muslim figures in advancing mathematics, developing the concept of the zero, algebra, geometryand trigonometry. Key inventions that changed the way people lived were also featured; the astrolabeand the quadrant, both essential tools for navigation, as well as some of the earliest surgical instruments. Architectural ingenuity and creativity was illustrated through images of Spain's Al-Hambra palace and the Taj Mahal.
The reason why this theme was chosen was because this challenges the notion that some hold about Islam being a religion of frustration, anger, violence and backwardness. It shows how Muslims contributed to the lives of people around them and left a mark for centuries to come. By giving Muslim youth positive role models, this also gives them the confidence to believe in their heritage and faith and it is hoped that it will give them much needed inspiration to excel and contribute to modern day life. The Muslim Heritage Education Resource site (www.virtualclassroom.net) was launched on 3rd November 2003 by
Rt Hon Charles Clarke(Secretary of State for Education and Skills).
Also present at the launch in the House of Commons were:
Dominic Grieve(Shadow Minister, Home Affairs) Phil Willis(Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Lib Dem) Trevor Philips(Chair, Commission for Racial Equality)Representative of HRH The Prince of Wales Iqbal Sacranie(Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain)
2002: "Fasting to Remember"
The theme for 2002 included the launch of the first UK national day of fasting as IAW that year fell in the second week of the Muslim month of Ramadan. 'Fasting To Remember' is an opportunity for everyone to join in the experience of fasting and remember people who are less fortunate. People of many different faiths and backgrounds took part, including many schools and universities.
In addition, to coincide with IAW 2002, the
Islamic Society of Britaincommissioned a public opinion survey by the respected pollsters YouGovon attitudes towards Muslims. The poll found that 74% of Britons said that they knew 'nothing or next to nothing about Islam' while another 64% of Britons said that there main source of information on Islam and Muslims was from the media.
Special guests at the launch event included:
Paul Boateng(Secretary to the Treasury) Christina Dyke(Conservative Party)Lord Conrad Russell(Liberal Democrat Peer)Mike Waldron, on behalf of HRH The Prince of WalesDr Muhammad Abdul Bari(Deputy Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain)
2001: "Islam for Peace and Justice"
IAW 2001 took place under the dark shadow of the terrible events of September 11th that year - but it provided an opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims across the UK to join together, united in their condemnation of the killing of innocent people.
Special Guests at the launch event included:
John Prescott(Deputy Prime Minister)Rt Hon Oliver Letwin(Shadow Home Secretary)Rt Hon Simon Hughes(London & Home Affairs Spokesperson) Sarah Joseph( Islamic Society of Britain) Yousuf Bhailok(Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain)
2000: "Fight the Prejudice - Islamophobia"
IAW 2000 sought to highlight the disturbing conclusions of the report by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia of the
Runnymede Trustand the urgent need for more action on the part of Muslims to explain the true teachings of Islam to others and help dispel age-old myths and misconceptions
Guests at the launch event included:
William Hague(Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition)Rt Hon Jack Straw (Home Secretary)Rt Hon Simon Hughes(London & Home Affairs Spokesperson) Yousuf Bhailok(Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain)
Other Islam Awareness Weeks
Islam Awareness Week (IAW) is also a week-long series of lectures, workshops, and seminars held all across University campuses in
North Americato increase awareness about Islamand issues related to Muslims. These activities specifically focus on dispelling stereotypes and prejudices surrounding Islam and Muslims. The actual week selected for holding IAW varies from one University campus to another.
* [http://www.iaw.org.uk Islam Awareness Week]
* [http://www.isb.org.uk Islamic Society of Britain]
* [http://engagemn.com/2008/03/27/islamic-awareness-week-creating-da%e2%80%99wah/ Islam Awareness Week: Creating Da'wah]
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