Preview: Islam Week

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The American Satirist PJ O’Rourke once said “I think it’s been hard for people to understand how Islam can be a good religion, and yet the Islamists are evil.” That view still resonates today, and even among educated people, there is a profound lack of knowledge about the world second most popular religion.

What does Islam tell its followers? What are its values? How is it relevant to the modern world? To answer these questions, the CU Islamic Society has created an Explore Islam Week. It promises a week of talks, discussions and social events, that is described on their website as “aimed at members and non-members alike.”

One of the event’s organisers, Myra Fazal, told the Tab, “I see Explore Islam Week as an opportunity for the Islamic Society to share the diverse intellectual, social and spiritual traditions of a religion that is so often spoken for by an unrepresentative minority.”

Islam Week begins tonight with a talk by Tim Winters


The week kicks off tonight with arguably the event that most ISoc members most eagerly awaiting. The Shayk Zayed Lecturer of the Divinity Faculty, Timothy Winter’s talk “Who Is Muhammad?”  will try to demystify the central character of the Muslim Faith and explain his historical impact.

A convert to Islam himself, Winter gained a double First in Arabic at Pembroke College. Now known better to some as Abdal Hakim Murad, he is touted as Britain’s most influential Muslim, ahead of Baroness Warsi and Medhi Hasan.

A Selwyn Medic said, “He is simply one of the most eloquent people I have ever heard. He gives the impression that he doesn’t even need to prepare his speeches, he’ll just come to the Jumaa (Friday Prayer) with a topic on his mind, and talk about it for 20 minutes, without notes. He just seems to have that ability.”

Tim Winters has appeared in a cover of Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’


Other exciting events that are bound to generate much interest include the Interfaith Dinner, being held on Wednesday in Emmanuel URC Church, which aims to provide a more informal setting to get a sense of Islam from a cultural perspective.

To this end, a screening of “Journey to Mecca,” is also being shown. It features the story of 21-year old law student who undertook an 18 month journey from Morocco and is now renowned as one of the world’s greatest travellers.

The film, released in 2009, generated rave reviews. Life magazine said, “The scenes are breathtaking,” and that the film “will stay with you for a long time.”

Islam Week cannot promise weather like this


Many students have been working tirelessly to organise the events. Myra explained the process: “There is a lot of coordination involved in researching and liaising with our speakers and deciding how we want to shape the week. We chose to focus on the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims in the media, the theme of ‘men and women before God’ in Islam, as well as personal reflections on Islam.”

The emphasis on information, rather than self-indulgence seems to be a recurring theme throughout the week’s events. The choice of topics and speakers is clearly intended to address many issues that face Islam in the modern world.

Remona Aly, who will be examining Muslim’s relationship with the media, is a journalist and editor. She regularly writes for the Guardian. Ahmed Paul Keeler, who will be talking on Tuesday, has given extensive lectures all over the Muslim World about his experiences as a Muslim Convert.

Open prayers will be held on Friday at 1pm


So if you’re bored of looking at your books and writing essays, it’s time to leave the library and attend one of these events. If this reviewer’s opinions are worth anything, it won’t be a decision you regret.

The festival begins tonight at Mill Lane Lecture Theatre at 6.30pm, Timothy Winter’s talk about the history and legacy of the Prophet Muhammad.

For the full list of events, see