November marks Islamaphobia Awareness Month and Khayyam Butt, 3rd Year Pharmacy student at LJMU and the President of the Islamic Society (ISOC), told Julia Daer (EDI Team) and Ambar Ennis (VP Community and Wellbeing, JMSU) about his time in Liverpool, at University and about his experiences with the Society. He shared his thoughts about the importance of education, being open-minded and discarding misconceptions about Islam that portray it in a negative light.
How long have you been an ISOC member? Tell us a bit more about the society.
In my first year I approached the then President, Tab, who is now a good friend of mine, and told him I wanted to get involved. I became the Treasurer of ISOC and that was an amazing experience. I was looking after the finances and supporting Charity Week. Overall, we try to host a variety of activities: social, educational and charitable. Next up we have Inter Faith week and next semester we’ll be hosting activities for Discover Islam Week – it would be great to see everyone get involved.
During November we observe Islamophobia Awareness Month. What does this month mean to you as a Muslim?
I think this is a time where I would like to see people become more open-minded and reflect on their biases – biases are common. It’s important for us not to gain all of our information from one source, but to go beyond and question the validity of our sources of knowledge and to speak to different people about their experiences.
What would you say to fellow students and staff members about this month (and beyond)?
Align yourself with reliable sources, the religion is a religion of peace. The Quran speaks about mercy to all of the world, not just to Muslims, meaning that anyone can benefit from the mercy and compassionate nature of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Going forward, as well, I believe that we should have a consistent and a systematic approach to communication and knowledge-sharing, demonstrated by regularly having a point of contact between the Society and the wider University community, through JMSU, EDI and beyond. This would help us foster a good relationship with everyone and increase everyone’s knowledge of Islam - for example, via Discover Islam Week, happening next March.
What is the biggest misconception that you have personally heard about Islam? How can we best counteract such misconception(s)?
There are a plethora of misconceptions. Three of the biggest ones revolve around terrorism, the oppression of women, and anti-Semitism. All of these can be debunked through the Quran.
Regarding terrorism, The Quran commands the Prophet (peace be upon him) to respond in a dignified and beautiful way to those who mocked and ridiculed him and were later part of those who even tried to have him killed (Chapter 73, verse 10). So, let alone harming others, Muslims are commanded to ignore these types of people in a way that is gracious and dignified. Moreover, The Quran unequivocally states in Chapter 5 verse 32 - "If anyone kills a person, it would be as if he killed the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people".
On the point regarding the oppression of women, in Islam men and women are equal in the eyes of the law. Women have a right to property, education, and wealth, which has nothing to do with their husbands. Mothers and wives are held in high regard; When asked 4 times about who warrants the most companionship, the Prophet, peace be upon him, replied ‘your mother’ 3 out of the 4 times to show the high status of a mother in Islam. Regarding marriage: ‘…and the best of you are those who are best to their wives’ Tirmidhi.
Finally, the contention of anti-Semitism somehow being linked to Islam, can be easily debunked both historically and theologically. The Prophet (peace be upon him) married a Jewish woman, Saffiyah bint Huyyay, who, in response to being ridiculed for being Jewish, was told by the Prophet (peace be upon him) to say – “How could you fare better than me, while Prophet Aaron was my father, Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was my uncle and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is my husband!” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi). Historically, Professor Zachary Karabell reminds us that under Muslim rule, ‘Jewish communities enjoyed more freedom, affluence and social standing than any other Jewish community would until the 19th Century’.
What positive change would you like to see in the UK?
A positive change would be to allow Muslims to be in positions of influence in councils of different regions and cities to implement activities and events and educational initiatives for communities. More could be done in relation to hate speech and hate crime. Islamophobic rhetoric stems from ignorance and fear and education counteracts that.
Moreover, as Muslims, we should educate ourselves further about the religion and balance between secular studies and Islamic studies. One shouldn’t be neglected one over the other, there should be a dichotomous relationship between the two, and we should be continuously enhancing our lives – particularly when you have the health, time and the opportunity to educate yourself. We should be in a space where we are experts in our chosen field as well as experts of Islam to contribute more to scientific advancements, economic principles and society in general, with a focus on bettering ourselves and our relationship with God.
Khayyam Butt, ISOC President (JMSU)
Julia Daer, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor (LJMU)
Ambar Ennis, VP Community and Wellbeing (JMSU)
Join us for our next virtual event: “In Conversation with Zara Mohammed: Supporting Muslim Students and Staff in Higher Education Institutions”. Zara is the first female, first Scot and youngest Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain. She is passionate about community change, empowering young people, and improving diversity and inclusion both within her communities and beyond. Tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/in-conversation-with-zara-mohammed-supporting-muslim-students-and-staff-tickets-193612780037
At LJMU, above all else, we want everyone who studies here, works here or works with us, to feel respected, and respect others.