The Muslim Students Association (MSA) will sponsor the University's 14th annual Eid dinner Saturday, February 21 in Ida Noyes Hall. Entitled "Islam Under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World," the event will feature Dr. Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and professor of international relations at American University.
The Eid dinner has traditionally been the MSA's largest event of the year. Organizers have been planning the event since last spring, and they anticipate nearly 300 attendees. Hasan Ali, a second-year in the College and vice president of the MSA, hoped the event would raise campus awareness of Islam and the Muslim community.
"We bring really well known scholars of the Islamic world and present them to the University community in an effort to build bridges, promote understanding, and enhance Muslim scholarship," he said.
He stressed that the event is not exclusively for Muslim students, and it has always drawn a diverse crowd of students and community members.
Martin Jankowiak, a first-year in the College, represented the type of student Ali hoped would attend the event. While Jankowiak had limited background knowledge on the subject, he said he looks forward to the dinner and Ahmed's comments.
The Eid dinner celebrates the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, and it is one of the most important holidays in the Islamic year. The holiday commemorates God's commandment that Abraham sacrifice his son Ishmael. Before Abraham could complete the act, God showed his satisfaction with Abraham's faith and gave him a sheep or ram to sacrifice instead, according to Islam.
Eid Al-Adha marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Tradition maintains that on this day, Muslims attend a special prayer and sermon at the Masjid or prayer hall. Following the religious services, friends and family normally convene to enjoy a feast.
In commemoration of Abraham's sacrifice, Muslims sacrifice a sheep or ram and distribute the meat among family, friends and the impoverished.
This year, Eid Al-Adha was celebrated on February 1, 2004.
The theme of Ahmed's discussion, "Islam Under Siege," draws on his new book, which has the same title. It examines the concept of asabiyya, or group loyalty. Ahmed argues that with the recent rise in state-sponsored terrorism and leaders like Osama bin Laden, a perverted hyper-honor has replaced the traditional concept of honor. This has led men to levels of hatred, he argues, that include mass murder.
Ali stressed that the event will not be a simple dinner, but a critical discussion on contemporary Islam and international affairs.
"At the University of Chicago, you're not supposed to sit back and leave with a full stomach. You should leave questioning old thoughts and debating whether the speaker was right or wrong," he said.
Doors open at 5:45 p.m. and dinner will be served at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $8 with a university ID and $10 for general admission, and a book signing will follow the dinner. Student Government is co-founding the event, which is nearly sold out.