Islamic students open up about religion and culture

Kennedy Nolen, Multicultural Reporter


Even though they are in the United States, students from Saudi Arabia are still finding ways to practice their culture and Islamic faith.

Sunni Islam is the predominant religion in Saudi Arabia.

Fatimah Alqurini, a freshman biological sciences major who came to the United States from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, said the religion is all about peace, love and respect.

Fatimah Alqurini said Saudi Arabia is strict when it comes to religion.

She said generally, people in Saudi Arabia have a hard time accepting other religions, since every citizen is of Islamic faith.

Since being in the United States, she said she understands different religions more and accepts everyone for who they are and what they believe.

Mohammed Alqurini, Fatimah’s brother and a senior engineering major at Colorado State University, said Saudi Arabians change a lot when they come to the United States and hang out with Americans.

He said they begin to understand more about religion, though some of the older generations who do not have the same experiences will not be as understanding.

If someone wants to be a Christian in Saudi Arabia, they can be, Mohammed Alqurini said, it just needs to be done nonchalantly or in secret.

“I accept the freedom of religion (in the United States). Everyone has their own choice. Respect is the most important thing, no matter what religion you follow,” he said.

Abdullah Wail, a senior political science major, is from the capital city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and has been in the United States since 2010. He said the Islamic faith is also important to him.

Fatimah Alqurini, Mohammed Alqurini and Wail admit they do not know every single detail of the faith, but are open to discussing Islam with people who are interested.

Wail said the way one lives their life through Islam determines what they will do in the future.

Fatimah Alqurini said Muslims pray five times a day, describing this as a quiet and peaceful exercise, similar to doing yoga.

Mohammed Alqurini said when he is stressed out, he prays and finds relief.

Friday is the special day of worship for Muslims, like Sundays are for Christians. Since the nearest mosque is in Urbana, Wail said Muslim students can go to the Cultural Center on campus, which has a room dedicated to worship. It is open to all denominations and religions for worship. A specific time on Friday is dedicated for Islamic worship.

Mohammed Alqurini said Fort Collins, Colorado, where Colorado State University is located, has an Islamic Center available to attend worship services.

One of the most important Islamic religious observations takes place during the month of Ramadan, which will begin on May 26 and end June 25 this year. Fatimah Alqurini said during this time, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, which can last from around 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.

Wail said Muslims do not only fast from drinking and eating but also swearing and other behaviors. The three students said Ramadan is a time to find complete peace.

“It is like a detox,” Mohammed Alqurini said.

A holiday called Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and breaks the fast.

Another holiday called Eid al-Adha, meaning “sacrifice feast,” takes place September 1 this year. Traditionally, in Saudi Arabia, Muslims sacrifice a sheep or goat to eat and share with friends, family and the poor.

Fatimah Alqurini said what is happening in the Middle East and what terrorist groups are doing is not what the Islamic faith is about. She said those people are not Muslims and do not represent Islam.

“They don’t have any religion. They are not human,” she said.

Fatimah Alqurini said when someone mentions terrorists, everyone assumes they are Muslim.

The media can blow events out of proportion and create a culture of fear toward Muslims, Mohammed Alqurini said.

Another aspect of Islam some may not understand is the hijab. The hijab is a way to protect oneself and to remain modest, Fatimah Alqurini said. She said when wearing one, she does not have to worry about anyone looking at her in an inappropriate way.

Fatimah Alqurini said she just wants to be herself around her husband.

She said there are advantages to living in the United States. She said life for women in the United States is better than in Saudi Arabia, as women cannot drive there.

In the United States, Fatimah Alqurini said, she can do anything and everything she wants.

Fatimah Alqurini said she likes the lifestyle in the United States better,and would live in the country for a period of time, but she does not know if she could live in the United States forever, as she would get homesick.

However, Fatimah, her brother and Wail all agreed the food back home is better.

Kennedy Nolen can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].