Muslim and Hindu Students Engage in Dialogue
Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 9, 2014 23:02
Georgetown Campus Ministry hosted an interfaith dialogue jointly sponsored by the Muslim and Hindu Student Associations on Wednesday night in Makom.
Now in its third year, the event has helped students open up to the discussion of differing religious views, according to former President of the Interfaith Student Association Aamir Hussain (COL ’14).
“People didn’t know how to [talk about religion] without offending anybody … but I think that through the interfaith dialogues, students have been able to really talk on a personal level for the first time,” he said.
Throughout the evening, members of both religions chatted and intermixed seamlessly. The only moment that segregated the students was when the room broke into prayer. However, this provided an opportunity for students to witness the practices of the other faith.
The event began with presentations by the presidents of both the Hindu and Muslim student groups, which gave the audience a background of the fundamental elements of each faith.
Despite the fundamental differences in the foundations of these religions, such as the monotheistic Islam versus the polytheistic Hinduism, the faiths have similarities.
"Small actions, that’s a great similarity [between Hinduism and Islam]. … Small actions can be worshipped,” MSA President Erva Khan (NHS ’15) said.
Leaders of both the MSA and the HSA found similarities within their respective religious practices, including traditions such as fasting and washing or showering before praying.
Overall, the event took place without a hitch, and members of both faiths learned about the other’s belief system and culture.
“It was definitely a learning experience. Certain topics caused more conversation than others, but we didn’t have any controversy,” Khan said.
Hussain acknowledged that there could have been testy moments of discussion, but that the students were ready to talk about all subjects. One such controversial topic is the ongoing hostilities between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir region. Recently the site of increased violence, Kashmir has always been an obstacle to peaceful relations between the predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan.
"Hindu-Muslim conversations can have many obstacles, [but] students are prepared to reflect on difficult topics," Hussain said.
However, this interfaith dialogue event was designed to avoid controversial topics, intended instead to promote the aspects of either religion that bond the students as people.
When the students were divided into small groups of both Muslims and Hindus, they drew upon commonalities between the faiths in order to find common ground. Within the discussion sections, students had the opportunity to discuss an array of topics, including how their religion has impacted their beliefs on various subjects, from science and religion to morals and family.
The Muslim-Hindu interfaith event has grown in size since the first event two years ago, and involved participation from students in multiple campus organizations, in addition to members of the respective religious groups’ boards.
Hussain was pleasantly surprised with the discovered shared ideals of the two faiths and emphasized the need for more interfaith dialogue at Georgetown in the near future.
“How we grew up, how we got our morals, how our families influenced us, a lot of that is really similar. I was impressed by how close we actually were,” Hussain said. "This event [was] the next in a series of steps designed to make interfaith work more central to student programming."