Apr 112005
Authors: Tim Pennington

This week the Muslim Student Association is putting on activities that are designed to expose Fort Collins to Islamic culture.

"It's really fun sharing our traditions," said Kholood Habiballa, a freshman open-option major. "We want to clarify any misconceptions."

The "Arabian Night" celebration originally scheduled for Monday, will take place at noon today on the Lory Student Center Plaza. There will be free Arabic coffee served with baklava and a tent set up for a Bedouin culture exploration.

"Arabic coffee is both healthy and delicious," said Isra'a Belgasem, a junior psychology major. "If you haven't tried baklava, you better come and have some."

This week has been designed to have serious issues addressed as well as bring humor to the forefront.

"If you had a dining room with all kinds of dishes and plates set out you would want people to try it all," said Khaleel Al-Yahya, the MSA president. "That's why we are having this whole week."

This week is Islamic Culture Week, and it is the first in the nation to breach outside of just one campus and involve other cities and universities in its quest for diversity and respect. Denver, Greeley and Boulder are each involved in some way with this week's celebrations.

"Our average attendance at weekly prayer is 200 to 300 people," said Zaki Safar, the MSA program coordinator and sophomore electrical engineering major.

MSA is expecting 2,000 people to attend this week's events.

There will also be a free basic Arabic class this afternoon in the student center taught by Al-Yahya, with emphasis on basic sayings and letters.

"We will give people the chance to say 'hello,'" Safar said. "It gives you more confidence in talking to Islamic people."

The Arabic class at CSU was incepted a few years ago and MSA is hoping that this week's activities will spark more interest on campus for the Arabic language.

"We want to mix culture with language," Al-Yahya said. "You cannot have language without culture."

Both Habiballa and Belgasem will join the other women of the Muslim Student Association in an 'Islamic Culture Corner' on Wednesday. The women will be showing CSU students the way to cover your self with wrappings, to write your name in Arabic and will also give away free books.

"Our main focus of this week is on Sheik Yusuf Estes," Safar said. "We need to talk about terrorists and the Islamic perspective on it."

Estes is speaking to CSU specifically about "Terrorism, Islam and the West" and asking students what can be done here in Fort Collins.

"Timothy McVay was a Christian and we don't think all Christians are bad," Al-Yahya said. "We should exclude things like terrorism from the Islamic culture."

MSA is hoping that this weeks activities will focus on what CSU can do to make a difference in American's views of terrorists and the Middle East.

"With Islamic Culture Awareness Week we want to show a mix of religion, culture, and Arabic," Habiballa said. "We'll try to show people our lifestyles."

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