A Muslim missionary based out of Springdale comes to the UofA every Thursday to speak with students at the Arkansas Union about misconceptions they have about Muslims.
Feroz Hundal has been coming to the UA campus since November to speak with students to dispel misconceptions about Muslims. Hundal comes on Thursday’s from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. and usually speaks to 10-15 students each visit, he said. Hundal has only received one negative comment, where the student thought that Muslims supported terrorism.
Hundal said he thinks it is important to speak with students on campus because they are students from all over the world with different cultures and races.
“So many people, especially in this part of the U.S., are not exposed to Muslims,” Hundal said. “They’ve never met a Muslim or heard of Muslims. Even when we first moved here, people were generally surprised to see a Muslim.”
Hundal said he is speaking to students to represent real-life Muslims, not how Muslims are portrayed in social media, television or the news.
“There are good people and bad people in all religions,” Hundal said. “You can’t blame the act of one person on the whole religion.”
Hundal grew up in Canada and graduated from Jamia Ahmadiyya, an international Islamic seminary in Canada. Hundal has served as a missionary in Liberia, Pakistan and the Marshall Islands. Hundal now runs the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s branch, which includes members from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was founded in 1889 as a revival within Islam, according to Al Islam. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community focuses on peace and service. Members have built over 16,000 mosques, 600 schools and 30 hospitals.
Hundal welcomes both positive and negative comments from students, he said.
“If that person has a negative comment, if he has time he can sit here with me and we can discuss what misconceptions he has with Muslims,” Hundal said.
Hundal said that Muslim people have come up to his table and said that it was nice to see a Muslim stall.
“It's a good way to start a conversation,” Hundal said.
Emily Magee, a graduate student, stopped to speak with Hundal on Jan. 30. Magee said she stopped because she enjoys speaking with people who have different beliefs than her.
Magee asked Hundal what he thinks people should know about the Muslim community, she said.
“It’s important to learn about other cultures and other beliefs and I think a lot of people just don’t know how to ask, or they don’t know how to interact with people who are different so I think it’s important to give the opportunity to people to make it a little easier,” Magee said.”
Joshua Miller, a graduate student, stopped to speak with Hundal on Jan. 30 about how the Muslim community is portrayed as terrorists in the media.
“It was really interesting to me because like I hate that people think they can just judge people by what they look like,” Miller said.
Miller said he thinks it is important to learn about other cultures in general because “you only know yours.”
Hameed Naseem, an electrical engineering professor and faculty advisor for Al-Islam Student Association Registered Student Organization, helped Hundal reserve space at the Arkansas Union.
Naseem said he thinks the event gives students the opportunity to meet others, he said.
“I think in a place like a university, it's important that we provide students from various cultures and religions and faiths a place to meet with people who are different from them,” Naseem said.
Interactions like this give students a diverse environment at the university, which they may or may not have later on in life, Naseem said.
“Since I also come from originally from India, I know that it becomes very important for an outsider to come here and feel at home,” Naseem said.
“We want people to be more friendly and doing things for each other and understanding each other, but at the minimum, they should not be biased against each other,” Naseem said. “So we want to bring biases and discrimination down, but we want to go beyond that to educate people.”
There will be an Al-Islam Student Organization lecture focusing on the intersection of Islam and the African-American community in April.
Hundal will continue to speak with students at the Arkansas Union on Thursday’s.