Mohammed Alrooqi invited Colleen Gearhart to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha to satisfy her curiosity and share his culture.
“She’s always interested in our culture, asking questions about it,” said Alrooqi, 27, a sophomore majoring in business administration at River Forest’s Dominican University who is from Saudi Arabia.
“I have an uncle who is Muslim,” said Gearhart, 24, a senior in early childhood education, who grew up in Berwyn. “My uncle is Algerian, so I wanted to know more about Saudi Arabian culture. There are many Dominican students from Saudi Arabia. It’s nice to mix cultures.”
Oak Park Public Library, River Forest Public Library and Dominican University’s Rebecca Crown Library used the annual Dominican celebration of Eid al-Adha on Oct. 21 to kick off their collaborative Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys series.
Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, is considered one of the most important Islamic holidays and occurs across the Islamic world at the same time as the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
For two hours, Dominican’s student Saudi Club shared food, music and cultural activities with fellow students from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds.
“This holiday (commemorates) God asking the prophet Ibrahim to kill his own son,” explained Nasser Alsubaie, 24, a freshman in international relations from Saudi Arabia. “When Ibrahim showed he was willing to do what God wanted, God asked him to kill a sheep instead.”
Alsubaie and Mazin Almutawa, 23, a freshman in computer science from Saudi Arabia, said the Muslim Journey series, which will feature book discussions exploring Islamic art, culture and history, is important to Muslim students.
Many American students confuse Islam with terrorism, so Muslim students are eager for Americans to learn more, Almutawa said.
“When you have Muslim friends and you introduce them to American friends, you say, ‘This is my friend so and so. He is Muslim, but he is good,’” he said.
Aly Drame, assistant professor of history and the faculty sponsor of the Saudi Club, will serve as lead scholar at the book discussions, scheduled throughout the fall at local libraries and the university.
Drame, who teaches a course on the foundations of Islam, said the series is very important.
“My students know very little about their own religions,” he said. “They ask me why we worship Muhammed, which is not even true. If you worship Muhammed, you will not get into the kingdom of heaven. Sharing this information is a good thing.”
University Librarian Felice Maciejewski applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to receive books and other materials on Muslim culture at the same time that the Oak Park and River Forest libraries applied, Maciejewski said.
“When we were notified that we all were recipients, it made sense to connect for a programming grant,” she said.
“Our director came across this opportunity and thought it was something good for us to pursue,” said Blaise Dierks, adult services manager at the River Forest Public Library. “We have a well-traveled, well-learned community interested in these kinds of things.”