The Muslim American Society held a performance night featuring Muslim comedians, poets and singers called “Illumination” Sunday in the University Center’s Houston Room.
The event aimed to counter a negative stereotype about Muslims and encourage a generation with artistic talent to emerge from the Muslim-American community.
“Especially with all the negative things going around, it’s important we have a large amount of Muslims just get out and say what’s real and what’s right about Muslims,” songwriter Akbar Qayum said.
Qayum and longtime schoolmate Jawad Fayiz performed as a group called D-Clique. The two said they hope to illustrate the reality of Islam and the Muslim-American struggle through their songs.
“We want to tell the truth in every song,” Fayiz said. “And entertainment really gets through to people today.”
Event host Saifullah Mujahideen said it was the duty of the young generation to showcase its religion to others.
“Islam may be viewed as something strange,” Mujahideen said, “but it is our duty to show that Islam is a source of light in the world. We must be the illumination generation.”
Mahnoor Samana, a spoken-word artist, performed at the event, hoping to inspire others.
“Going up there is nice. It really inspires others to bring out their talents,” she said. “Just to know that people are thinking about it, and it’s bringing somebody closer to God, it makes you feel good.”
English junior Zainab Ghwari said one of the event’s goals was to bring in youth who usually wouldn’t attend a religious event.
“This is an attempt to bring those youth that don’t see religion as an important part of their lives, and to show them that entertainment can be achieved through many mediums that are permitted in Islam,” Ghwari said. “Islam is not rigidity; it has room for everything.”
Because Muslim youth seem to be straying from their faith, MAS wanted to bring them back with something they would enjoy, event organizer Javeria Pirzada said.
“I wanted them to have this environment where it’s not too lecture-type and strict, but at the same time, they’re in this Muslim environment, and they can talk about issues,” Pirzada said.
Comedian Obaida Abdul-Rahim said another goal of the event was to have Muslims pursue their talents.
The notion that Muslims are only allowed to be talented in “cutting people up with knives … as surgeons” is not true, Abdul-Rahim said.
“The idea (is) that it’s either doctor or disown,” he said. “That doesn’t work for me.”
Ghwari said she hoped the event dispelled a self-inflicted stereotype about arts in the Muslim community.
“Arts in Muslim societies are regularly underestimated,” Ghwari said. “It’s seen as something people who can’t get into medical school would turn to. Illumination is an attempt to show people that Islam is a way a life, not just praying all day. It also includes taking time out and remembering God through different ways.”
Director of MAS Youth Muhammad Abdallah ended the event with an extended hand to outsiders.
“We at MAS want to facilitate anybody who feels he has a talent he wants to nurture and observe,” Abdallah said. “If you find that you have something that you’re good at, and you feel that you can do something that would make a difference for Islam, MAS Youth is here to help.”