Last month, Dr. Michael Miller’s Islamic Philosophy and Dr. Pratibha Kumar’s Media and Society classes took a field trip to the Islamic Society of Frederick to visit its community center and engage in interfaith learning. A few students from Dr. Indrani Mitra’s Stories of Islam class also joined the field trip.
Miller’s class focused on Islamic philosophical beliefs while Kumar’s class focused on Islamophobia and how Muslim Americans are represented in American and western media. Students were shown around the center which contained a mosque, library, classrooms, kitchen, cafeteria and community areas. After the tour, students sat down with Ms. Tammy Dar, the mosque’s representative to talk about subjects like Islamic philosophy, theology, post-9/11 and so on.
A large part of the conversation was about Islamophobia. This was particularly relevant to Kumar’s class as the students have been studying how hateful media rhetoric can spread stereotypes and misconceptions about Muslims, especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But that is why the classes went to the mosque—to better understand a group of people who are so misunderstood in American society and to dispel unfair and false conceptions about American Muslims.
“I think it is very important for Americans to understand Islam. Primarily, most of our students are Catholic or Christian, and most Americans I think don’t know a lot about Islam, only what you see in the news or world events. But to have the experience of our neighbors and friends is valuable.” Miller said. The crux of his Islamic Philosophy course is to experience firsthand the philosophical beliefs of a religion that students learn about, and also see it in action.
For Kumar’s students, the trip was valuable in seeing the lives of American Muslims and realizing that the misconceptions and stereotypes are inaccurate and baseless. “My expectations were for students to experience a Muslim place of worship and to see people praying, congregate as a community and talk to them. I believe it was quite eye opening for students to directly get their questions answered by a Muslim woman in a hijab,” Kumar said after the trip.
Faculty goals and expectations aside, it is important to know what students thought of the experience. The Mount is a majority Christian institution, and it can be assumed to some point that many students have never visited an Islamic center or mosque before. “It was really pretty, I guess I thought it would have been like a cathedral, but it’s cool that it was just a house which was reconstructed to be a religious community center,” said Mae Zingo (C’24).
“I never thought that the inside of a mosque would have been as basic as it was, but they have a reason behind keeping it as simple so as to not take away from the fact that people are there to pray and not be distracted,” said Jo Raflo (C’25) regarding the absence of any statues or pictures in the prayer hall.
“As a practicing Catholic, it was truly eye opening to see another religion that strives for many of the same virtues that the Catholic faith holds dear. I think it is valuable to study religions other than your own because it promotes a deeper understanding of others and even yourself,” added Dominic Wilkinson (C’26).
Both Miller and Kumar have been taking Mount students to the center for the last decade or so. These field trips are valuable experiential and serving learning opportunities for Mount students.
Students enjoying the sunshine during the trip
Photo by: Pratibha Kumar