Muslim Student Association unites to spread peace through rap concert


Photo courtesy of David Schopp

Students shine lights as Khalil Ismail performs as part of the Islam Awareness Week hosted by the Muslim Student Association on campus during the week of October 10.

By Madeleine Hubbard, Contributing Writer

Working to fight ignorance, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) of the University of Illinois hosted Islam Awareness Week the week of Oct. 10. The group also hosted a free concert titled “Black Lives Matter: It’s a Muslim Issue” with a performance and talk by Muslim rapper Khalil Ismail on Friday, Oct. 14.

With the theme of “Mythbusters,” Muslim students fought against discrimination and ignorance.

The week began with Wear a Hijab Challenge, where the MSA gave out headscarves and cotton candy, encouraging non-Muslim girls to know what it feels like to wear a hijab in their daily lives. The MSA also hosted several talks, including “Interfaith Can Restore Humanity” and “Islamophobia and the Media.”

Hate crimes and discrimination toward Muslims in America occurs at an alarmingly high rate. A study led by Professor Brian Levin at California State University, San Bernardino, showed that hate-crimes against Muslims in America rose by 78 percent in 2015. The number of hate crimes targeting Muslims has not reached such levels since 2001, after 9/11.

“I remember clearly in middle school, post 9/11, I was the butt of a lot of jokes,” Waleed Aldadah, secretary of the MSA and senior in LAS said. “I didn’t really have a lot of friends. I didn’t really understand why.”

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    Aldadah said looking back on difficult times helped him learn about his religion and find a way to educate other people about Islam in a positive manner.

    The performance began Friday night after the students performed Maghrib, the fourth out of the five daily prayers in Islam. Facing northwest toward Mecca, the students peacefully prayed on the Quad.

    Zarin Sultana, outreach chair of the MSA and senior in LAS, led the effort to organize the concert. Sultana said she hopes to bring people together.

    “Black Lives Matter is a very important issue right now in our community,” Sultana said.

    Ismail opened the concert with his original song “Freedom Fighters.” Other songs included “Shake Up the World,” inspired by Muhammad Ali and “No More Hate.”

    After the performance, Ismail spoke about Islam and Black Lives Matter.

    “No one person represents everybody in any group,” Ismail said. “The truth is, every situation is a little bit different.”

    When he is not working on his music, Ismail focuses his efforts on various non-profit projects. Ismail’s music, including his newest album, is available online.

    Aldadah explained the relationship between Black Lives Matter and Islam.

    “Justice and equality should apply to all people and all faiths and all races and this is one of our core religious beliefs [of Islam],” Aldadah said.

    Ismail said on his own thoughts of Islam, “when practiced, it gives an eternal peace that no matter how bad it gets, even if you’re at your deathbed, there’s something to look forward to. That is irreplaceable.”

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