Inter-faith dialogue unites students

Several students first decide what they believe when they arrive at college. Georgia State offers multiple faith-based student organizations that create a sense of community and spiritual guidance for those who are grounded in their faith, or discovering it for the first time.

On Oct. 10, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) held a meet-and-greet for students to socialize and learn about each other’s religion.

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“The purpose of this meeting is to create a friendly environment for Christians [and] Muslims,” said Henry Williams, MSA member and world history major. “With the news, you get so much animosity between different sects because for some reason in America it’s a harsh territory for most Muslims. [This event] creates a peacful environment where we can come together and have lunch.”

MSA president Halima Ahmad said college is a time where people find themselves and learn about their values and beliefs.

“A lot of the students in MSA, were born into Islam,” she said. “Once you get to college you kind of discover more who you are. When you’re in high school, you kind of just go along with the crowd. You just want to do what your friends are doing. When you get to college, you…want to be a unique person. That goes hand in hand with figuring out what your beliefs are.”

Ahmad said MSA has given many of its members a new confidence by providing a community of people who live by the same principles. According to Williams, [MSA] is like a brotherhood. He relocated to Atlanta from Detroit and didn’t have any friends or close family in the area. He used to be a Christian and he reverted to Islam, a process called Shahada.

“I came down here last August and I took my Shahada in September,” Williams said. “MSA offered me friends, family, everything. On Muslim holidays, my friends invite me over for dinner because I don’t have any Muslim family.”

Muslims believe every person is born Muslim. When they decide to make a spiritual committment, they’re coming back to what was given to them by Allah, according to Williams.

One of the similarities between Islam and Christianity is that Abraham is the patriarch of the two faiths.

“That’s why we call [ourselves] the children of Abraham- because we all come from that family branch,” Williams said.

Christian students who attended the event asked questions regarding prayer, the mosque and shared new information with the Muslims in their discussion group. Music education major Lanae Smith said her favorite part of the event was learning the many similarities of Islam and Christianity.

“There is a really cool similarity of just the love and adoration that we can all have for God,” Smith said.  “We were in there comparing just the way we go about prayer and how similar that is. There’s an idea of love and adoration and the peace that we have knowing Him. Not very many people want to talk about that.”

Ahmad also found their discussion on prayer interesting.

“The BCM students usually just pray whenever they feel like they want to pray,” Ahmad said. “They always just want to be connected to God. The Muslims are like that too, but we always have five regulated prayers that we have to pray and any additional prayers that you want to do are up to you.”

Christians believe Jesus Christ is their savior and through him they get to Heaven. While Muslims believe there is one God and prophet Muhammad is his messenger. Both faiths believe in Jesus, but Muslims believe he was a prophet and not a son of God. Another difference is how engagements and weddings are conducted.

Williams said he was married last December and learned he had to pay dowry, the money, goods or estate that a woman brings to a marriage.

“The wife gives you a price and you have to pay her,” Williams said. “My wife said a dollar because… we’re both in college. Then the Imam, [worship leader of the mosque] was like, ‘You think you might want to add two zeros or something like that?’ But I ended up having to pay $100 dollars to marry my wife. It goes directly to her and it’s her money. It can range, depending on the family.”

With any religion, a religion is your lifestyle, said Ahmad. A large factor in Islam is to be modest. It’s a principle that applies to men and women. One way women practice modesty is by wearing the head scarf to prevent any distractions.

“Although it’s good to be modest, you’re not supposed to just shy back in the corner,” Ahmad said. “I love talking to people about my religion. I’m really open to people asking me questions.”

Smith said being invloved in BCM is like her family. She said it’s really encouraging to be around people that believe the same things she believes. Now a senior, Smith said college was the time she began to discover her faith. She said when she came to college she had to learn how to step back and not judge people.

“Growing up, I knew the information of my faith, but I never really actually followed it or actually believed it,” she said. “When I came to college and I realized there were so many people different from me I was no longer in my little bubble. You think as a kid ‘Jesus loves me,’ but I didn’t really understand it until I came to college.”

Coming to college to discover your faith and make new friends means being open to the diversity on campus. Ahmad said people generally respect her beliefs.

“[One] of my friends [is] Hindu,.She has a completly different belief but we still respect each other’s values,” Ahmad said. “It’s really interesting to learn about other people and how their religion affects their perception of life. Even if you don’t come from the same background, that you can still compare your values to other people’s.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 24, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship will hold a meet and greet at 11 a.m. in the University Center in room 470.