Islamic history in focus

Kingston celebrates Islamic History Month

Mohamed Bayoumi, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, has been involved with Islamic History Month since its creation in 2007.
Mohamed Bayoumi, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, has been involved with Islamic History Month since its creation in 2007.

Along with seven other Canadian cities, Kingston has proclaimed October Islamic History Month.

Mohamed Bayoumi, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering has been involved with Islamic History Month since its inception four years ago. He said the month was organized by Muslims in the Kingston community, including students, faculty members and Kingstonians.

Bayoumi said the aim of the month is twofold: to increase the exchange of information about Muslim issues, and to promote acceptance of Islam in the local community.

“To me there is nothing worse than ignorance. We aim to help educate people so that they won’t be prone to misunderstandings, and will be subjected to information coming from the source,” he said. One common misconception is that Islamic History Month started as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bayoumi said.

“The issues we are presenting have existed for years. They started way before 9/11,” he said, adding that Queen’s Theological College and the Islamic society of Kingston collaborated to bring Islamic History Month to Kingston and brought the idea to the city council in 2007. It was unanimously approved.

“Kingston was the first city in Ontario where this was proclaimed, and the second city in Canada. In 2007, Canadian Parliament proclaimed October Islamic History Month. It’s gaining acceptance in many communities,” Bayoumi said.

He estimated that every year there are close to 500 Muslim students at Queen’s. He said that despite the number of Islamophobic incidents that have happened at Queen’s in recent years, the University is doing a good job promoting tolerance and acceptance.

In Sept. 2008, the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association (QUMSA) had its club space broken into and money stolen from donation boxes. Shortly following the break-in, a poster hanging in the JDUC was vandalized with discriminatory writing.

In Oct. 2006, a QUMSA banner was lit on fire outside QUMSA club space which is used as an on-campus prayer room.

“Nothing is ideal. I know there were some problems in the past affecting the Muslim community at Queen’s, but at the highest level, I believe that people are listening to these problems,” he said.

“It’s part of trying to build bridges with non-Muslims. We want to be seen as trying to fit in rather than be looked at as outsiders of the community.”

All Islamic History Month events are free of charge and open to the public. Upcoming events include an on-campus screening of the PBS film Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet on Oct. 19, an open house at the Islamic Centre of Kingston on Oct. 24, and a speaker on ‘Social Justice in Islam’ on Oct. 28. A discussion on Islam and the environment was held on Oct. 9 at Queen’s.

Other cities that celebrate Islamic History Month in October are Victoria, Port Coquitlam and Burnaby in British Columbia, Calgary in Alberta and Ottawa, Toronto and Windsor in Ontario. Victoria was the first city to celebrate Islamic History Month.

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