Students and fellow Muslims share faith
He prays five times a day and has never touched a drop of alcohol, but Bilel Ragued says he’s much like any other student.
The 19-year-old is helping share what it means to be Muslim with fellow Auckland University students as part of Islam Awareness Week.
“A lot of people have misconceptions so our aim is to try to clear those up,” he says.
“Most importantly, we want to show that we’re normal people. We’re quite similar to everybody else.”
Students from the 300-member university Muslim society held stalls on campus this week talking about their faith.
They’ve fielded questions about drinking, terrorism and attitudes to women.
Mt Roskill resident Bilel says Islam has been misrepresented by a small group, and violence plays no part in his religion.
“There’s nowhere in the Koran that says to do those things,” he says.
“Islam asks its followers to respect human life.”
Engineering student Fasihullah Shirwali, 21, says the faith is a constant part of his daily routine.
“It’s not just praying once a week, it’s a whole way of life,” he says.
He makes time for prayers between classes, using a dedicated prayer room on campus.
The New Windsor resident says fellow students are often surprised to find he never drinks alcohol, but accept his choice.
“People do understand when you explain,” he says.
This year’s awareness week theme of Strong Families – Better Society was launched by Governor-General Anand Satyanand in Wellington on Monday.
Islam Associations Federation president Javed Khan says strong families raise members to be strong in their faith and their relationships with society in general.
Mosques around the country will open their doors to the public tomorrow and Mr Khan says members will be on hand to answer questions.
“The reason is to give a better understanding of Muslims and Islam to the wider community.
“A lot of people have never been to a mosque and it will be an opportunity for them to see and ask questions,” he says.
For more information visit www.islamawareness.co.nz.
Strong faith: Auckland University Muslim Student Society members Fasihullah Shirwali, left, and Bilel Ragued.