Student Spotlight

This year’s theme for Islamophobia Awareness Month is #MuslimStories. To celebrate this theme, we bring you the stories of our IAM Planning Committee Members and wider QM Muslim student community.

This year’s theme for Islamophobia Awareness Month is #MuslimStories. To celebrate this theme, we bring you the stories of our IAM Planning Committee Members and wider QM Muslim student community.

 

Mohib

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Salam everyone, I’m Muhammad Mohib; a third-year economics and politics student and also the Societies Officer for Mile End. I am a Pakistani at heart who is proud to be a Muslim.

As one might guess, I am a cricket enthusiast, so much so that I’d wake up at 4am to watch a cricket match. Other than that, I love reading, especially Khalid Hussaini's books, but again who doesn’t. And yes, I think I am kind of a chef, I mean I love cooking and people love my food, so I guess that makes me a chef?! :)

 

What does IAM mean to you?

IAM is really close to my heart. To me, Islamophobia Awareness Month signifies the importance of addressing and eradicating prejudice and discrimination towards Muslims that exist in this society.

 

What are some events you are looking forward to during this year’s IAM?

Friday Prayers in the library square; every year I eagerly wait for this event to kick off IAM. It’s personally really important to me especially because it highlights the unity between the Muslims on campus.

 

Do you have a favourite passage from the Quran?

“So verily, with the hardship, there is relief. Verily, with the hardship, there is relief” [Quran 94:5-6]. This is my favorite passage, it really helps me keep going on, especially when things aren’t going my way.

 

What are some religious traditions/practices that you would like to highlight?

I think fasting in the month of Ramadan is an important practice in Islam. It’s just abstaining from eating and drinking but it teaches us the importance of being thankful for all the abundance that we have been blessed with and don’t even realize.

 

Christopher

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Christopher Luis Tenecela Tene, and I study Economics, Finance, and Management at Queen Mary University of London. My family is originally from Ecuador, but I was born and raised in London, United Kingdom. Many people may know this about me, but some may get confused when they hear that I am referred to as Mustafa. Why am I called Mustafa? Well, I'm a Muslim, and I chose Mustafa as my Muslim name. The fact that I am Muslim now might come as a surprise to some people and often raises the question: why did you convert to Islam? I didn’t convert to Islam. The use of the word convert, makes it sound like I went through a drastic transformation, and that it has now made me a completely different person. This is far from the truth. Instead, I believe a more appropriate question would be: why did you begin practising Islam? My answer is simple, I found out the truth about Islam. Islam may be the most misrepresented and misunderstood religion of all time. This is probably due to the biased negative coverage of Muslims in mainstream media. Thankfully, there are now organizations that tackle these misconceptions and educate people on Islam.

 

What does IAM mean to you?

Unfortunately, we live in a world where hate crime is still prevalent in our society, and most of those crimes are towards Muslims. This is largely due to the false misrepresentation of Muslims in mainstream media. I believe Islamophobia Awareness Month is an opportunity to clear up the negative misconceptions about Islam and educate people on the true teachings of Islam.

What are some religious traditions/practises that you would like to highlight

Islam was an easy transition for me. Even though I did not practice a religion, my belief in God was always present – as if it was encoded into my heart. However, I had no guidance to follow. What determined my words and actions were my own beliefs in what was good and beneficial, as well as the beliefs of others. So, when I found out about the Qur’an which is the Holy book for us Muslims, containing guidance for mankind and that it was said to be from God, I had to find out more. The Quran has been preserved since its revelation 1400 years ago confirming what has come from before as well as what is to come of the future, and millions of Muslims around the world have memorized this sacred text. It was revealed by the prophet Muhammad, the final messenger of God for all of mankind, and the most influential figure in history. We follow the Sunnah (Way of life) Of our Prophet Muhammed in all things, including how we eat, speak, drink, do business and more.

 

What are some events/content you are looking forward to during this years IAM?

For IAM 2023, I am looking forward to the events being held in multiple universities that will be dealing with important questions such as, what is Islamophobia? How does Islamophobia manifest itself in the UK? What causes Islamophobia? What can we do to address and tackle islamophobia? Addressing these questions can prove to be eye-opening to the public and can lead towards a society with a better understanding of the religion which accounts for ¼ of the global population.

 

How do you feel like your religion/Muslim identity has influenced your daily life/work?

‘The best among you in Islam are those with good manners’ (Sahih Bukhari). The ideas of good manners, good character, and righteousness are heavily emphasised in Islam and make up a large proportion of the religion. Be it in the Quran or the Hadith, it contains guidance for mankind and teaches you how to best live a successful life. It teaches you everything from how to treat your parents to how to treat the planet. Islam has had a positive impact on my life and I will continue to aim for the best version of myself.

 

Aisha

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi all, I’m Aisha Qadi, your Vice President Science & Engineering (one of your 6 sabbatical officers) this year at Queen Mary Students’ Union. Whilst my role is to represent students within the Science & Engineering faculty on a range of academic and education concerns, ultimately, we are here to represent all students at Queen Mary as well. I am a BSc (Hons) Psychology graduate, and throughout my time as a student I got involved in a range of representation roles and societies within the Students’ Union.

 

What does IAM mean to you?

Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) represents a time of reflection, advocacy, solidarity, and celebration to the Muslim community. IAM is an opportunity to raise awareness and educate others on the peaceful principles of Islam, tackle the stereotypes that fuel Islamophobia, highlight the work and contributions of Muslims to society, and building bridges of understanding of what it means to be a Muslim. IAM also incorporates a commitment to social justice and promoting an inclusive society where Muslims can thrive without fear of prejudice or discrimination.

 

What are some events/content you are looking forward to during this year’s IAM?

Being at Queen Mary University for almost 4 years now (time flies!), I always looked forward to the annual open Friday prayer (jummah prayer) done at library square that the SU and QMISOC organise in collaboration. Now being part of the Students’ Union as a staff and a sabbatical officer, it was an honour to organise this year’s IAM open Friday prayer alongside Jovani (this year’s Vice President Humanities & Social Sciences) and QMISOC. We supported in the set-up, supervising and the clean-up of the whole event while also liaising with students who have volunteered to support. It was incredible to see a successful turnout of over 500 Muslim students, who were very appreciative on how organised and smooth it was; a great improvement in organisation to the last couple of years. Many staff and students were intrigued to watch in and learn about the event as well as listen to the Friday prayer speech delivered by an external speaker.

As an organizer of a hijab awareness stall event for this year's IAM, I see this event as a crucial platform to deliver understanding and showcase respect for the hijab as an integral part of Muslim women's identities. For us, the hijab is more than a piece of clothing; it is a spiritual commitment and an expression of our faith. By engaging in open dialogue, this event is an opportunity to educate and raise awareness on the importance of the hijab and tackling stereotypes that come along with it. This objective is not just about correcting false misconceptions, but about empowering Muslim women and creating a campus environment that appreciates and celebrates religious and cultural diversity, while also affirming that the choice to wear the hijab is as much about personal empowerment as it is about religious observance.

 

Do you have a favourite passage from the Quran? 

"Who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people - and Allah loves the doers of good." - Surah Al-Imran [3:134]

This passage and verse emphasise the virtues of generosity, patience, and forgiveness both in times of ease and hardship. The verse also highlights the importance of restraining anger and disciplining self-control and understanding during challenging situations. Moreover, it encourages Muslims to forgive and pardon others as a means of overcoming conflict and fostering peace.

This teaching is particularly relevant in the face of Islamophobia, as it guides Muslims to respond to with compassion and understanding, thereby acting as an example to the true principles of Islam and promoting harmony and respect in a diverse society.

What are some religious traditions/practices that you would like to highlight?

As a Muslim, the traditions and practices that resonate most with me includes the discipline of our 5 daily prayers (Salah), fasting during the month of Ramadan; always giving charity and Zakat, performing the Hajj pilgrimage, and the celebrating joyous festival of Eid. Additionally, continuously seeking knowledge is what drives my personal and professional growth. Each of these practices and more play a vital role in shaping my character, my actions, and my interactions in life.

 

How do you feel your religion/Muslim identity has influenced your daily life/work?  

My Muslim faith, particularly as a hijabi woman, profoundly shapes my daily life and work. It grounds my moral and ethics and it provides me with a sense of purpose, guiding me to always act with integrity. The hijab is a visible symbol of my beliefs and often sparks conversations about faith, allowing me to address misconceptions and advocate for understanding and respect while also highlight the diversity within the Muslim community.

As a Muslim woman in a leadership role, I am empowered to represent and lead by example, showing that Muslim women can occupy roles of influence without compromising on their identity, and it inspires me to create a more inclusive society where people are evaluated on their merits rather than their religious practices or appearance.

 

Jovani

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Asalamu Alaikum (May Peace be Upon you)

My name Is Jovani Pal Noni, I am the current Vice President of Humanities I studied in SBM during my time at Queen Mary and got a degree in Accounting and Management. My family is originally from Albania/Kosovo and I was born and raised in the borough of Harrow.

Just to clear up some confusion, some people might know me by different names (My Muslim name Is Isa) so it’s okay to sometimes get confused when you hear people referring to me by either one or the other.

Why do people call you by two names might be the next question you ask. Well, I wasn’t raised in a Muslim household, and was always interested in doing my own research into theology and looking into different faiths, it was something I took a lot of passion in as I was learning about many different walks of life. This eventually led me to find peace of mind, tranquillity, and safety within the religion Islam so I took my Shahada (declaration of faith) and became Muslim in the year 2018.

 

What does IAM mean to you?

When coming to Queen Mary University I found a community in which I felt welcomed and found many like-minded people in the Islamic Society, through my three years of participating in events, volunteering, and more, I’ve found life-long companions, developed bonds, and learned a lot myself as a person during this time and have truly developed into becoming the best version of myself. So being able to express all I’ve learned during my time going through university at IAM allows me to look back and reflect as well as look forward to the future and see how we can best express our identity as Muslims.
 

What are some events/content you are looking forward to during this years IAM?

It has to be the Open Friday Prayer in front of Library Square, words cannot do it justice, and staff and students alike work hard to make this such an amazing event. Make sure to read the article to find out about what goes on.
 

What are some religious traditions/practices that you would like to highlight?

There’s no better time to be on campus then in Ramadan, to quickly explain what Ramadan is before going into detail, Ramadan holds an important place for all Muslims across the world as we fast from dawn to sunset every day, fasting is also one of the five pillars of the religion. This month is a time to reflect, work on one’s character, and nourish your heart with the remembrance of your creator. Some may worry about how we as Muslims have to fast for an entire month and at the same time be concentrated and productive, but for Muslims, this is the best time for productivity and only increases our concentration as we are in a constant state of worship to our creator.

The Students Union and the Islamic Society help in making this month the best time of the year even whilst having to be on campus. I have to mention how we have some days where the Islamic society provides Iftar (Iftar is the meal in which we break our fasts, after spending the day fasting). We have this after a long day of fasting with our community, and students come together to enjoy a meal side by side with one another, remembering and feeling grateful for the blessings that we have.

The student union also allows for flexible facilitation of the Multi-Faith Room and allows for opening hours to be extended, and we take this opportunity to perform Taraweeh in the university during those days. Taraweeh is a Sunnah (a sunnah is a statement, or action that the Prophet Muhammed Peace Be Upon Him did, or something which occurred that the Prophet did not rebuke) in which the community comes together in praying to our creator alone, standing shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet with people from all different walks of life, different ethnicities/backgrounds do not matter as we are all equal in the sight of our creator. As Allah says in the Qur’an:

O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may get to know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.

Surah Hujurat (49:3)

 

How do you feel like your religion/Muslim identity has influenced your daily life/work?

My days and entire life are motivated and maneuvered through my religion and my identity as a Muslim.

Allah says in the Quran:

“I have not created the jinn, the spirits, nor the human beings, for any other purpose except to worship Me.”

Quran 51: 56

So every day I put Allah first and plan my days around my prayer as this is the most important aspect of our lives as Muslims. How I work, talk, learn, and interact with others is all in order to please the creator so with everything I do whether that be sports, learning, working, how I am as a son, brother, etc. I aim to be the best I can and give any responsibility I have its due right as I am constantly trying to become the best believer I can.

 

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