Lancaster University’s Islamic Society held its annual Islam Awareness Week from Monday 8 to Friday 12 February. A series of talks held throughout the week, featuring notable speakers including former Sunday Express journalist Yvonne Ridley, were aimed at raising and engaging a wider interest in Islam and addressing preconceptions about the religion.
Talks ranged from the traditional debate of the existence of God to the more contemporary area of Islam’s relationship with science. Taking place in the Cavendish building each evening throughout Week Five, the event attracted over 500 people of mixed backgrounds over five nights. These crowds were given the opportunity to listen to, and take part in, discussion with the wide array of speakers on offer.
Islamic Society President Fayez Almari was very pleased with the week’s activities. “I felt the week turned out to be a success,” he said, adding that “feedback from those attending was that they enjoyed it very much.” Almari was especially pleased with the number of people attracted to the events: “For me it was really important that we hit the same attendance number we had last year, which we did comfortably.”
This attendance rate may be attributed to the Islamic Society’s organisation of top-level speakers delivering thought-provoking talks. Yvonne Ridley’s talk on Wednesday, ‘Yvonne Captured: Women and Education’, it was felt, met its headline billing. Ridley spoke to the 150-strong crowd of her experience in Taliban captivity in 2001, and of how she has come to view the Islamic faith as the true religion after reading the Qu’ran to honour a promise to a Muslim cleric who spoke to her as she was released. Her talk also aimed to alter preconceptions of the oppression of Muslim women, addressing issues such as forced marriages and honour killings.
The first two talks of the week discussed Islam and science. Monday’s speaker, Dr Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal of the University of Leeds, gave a talk entitled ‘Islamic Medicine: A Light in the Dark Ages’. This covered medical advances made during Islam’s ‘Golden Ages — medieval Europe’s Dark Ages. This talk showed how modern medicine is indebted to Islam for the development of many surgical tools and techniques still used today.
The following evening, Dr. Salim Ayduz, of Fatih University, lectured on ‘Muslim Contributions to Science’, notably the preservation of a great deal of Roman and Greek knowledge through translation into Arabic and eventually into Latin.
The standard was maintained into Thursday and Friday with talks from international authors Hamza Tzortzis and Adam Deen. Tzortzis gave a talk asking ‘Can we lead better lives without religion?’ He formed a basis for an argument for God’s existence with a series of nine points. These included the compatibility of Islam and science, Islamic financial and social support models and Islam’s psychological benefits. Many questions and comments were drawn by Tzortzis’s philosophical approach, with the lecture enhanced by a great deal of discussion.
The final talk of the week was Adam Deen’s ‘The Dawkins Delusion’ – a response to Richard Dawkins’s international bestseller The God Delusion. Deen used philosophical and scientific approaches to systematically discredit Dawkins’s idea that belief in God necessitates a blind faith without empirical evidence. Deen went on to say that Muslims should make use of available evidence to come to sound conclusions.