My name is Zaitoon Salamat and I have been an Amina MWRC volunteer since August 2015.
I first decided to become a part of the volunteer’s project as a means of doing something out-with my usual routine of looking after my children and being a housewife. I started off with the impression that I would see how this works out; I was going to attend schools in and around Scotland for a short while. After my first week of doing this I actually thought, this is my calling. This is something I would love to do as long as I can.
I realised very quickly that, depending on wherever we attended to do our presentations in Scotland, there was a reoccurring theme. Most of the pupils, and perhaps a much lesser number of teachers, were very out of touch with what Islam actually teaches and perhaps believed the perception of Islam that has been portrayed by the worldwide media. This experience was initially about what I would be sharing with those who attended the classes and teachers, however, in a short time I realised that there were many aspects of my religion that I perhaps didn’t take into consideration or took for granted. When challenged upon these I then felt I should do further research myself to find if there was any truth to what they had heard about Islam.
We have been given the opportunity to change our presentations about a little.
1) To see if we can identify what the best and most useful ways are of maintaining that the pupils remain engaged throughout the time duration of each class and
2) To deliver content that we think is necessary and suitable.
We begin by letting the pupils and teachers know that we are open to pupils and teachers alike being able to be as honest and truthful about what they wish to know about us and Islam and how we incorporate our religion in our daily lives. Despite every school having a tiny minority of disruptive pupils, we have been very fortunate in our experiences to find those pupils are perhaps the ones that come forward with many of the questions that are challenging, opposed to those who are usually appreciated. We also found that those very pupils were very welcoming and open to discussion and were the ones that would ask when we would return.
The schools project has given me the ability to not only articulate to pupils what I feel Islam is and share experiences of how I incorporate Islam into my daily, busy, working life, but has also taught me a lot about what others think and how they feel Islam fits in their life. We, as a volunteer’s team, have enjoyed the changes we witnessed before and after our presentations and we acknowledge the fact that not all of us see eye to eye on certain aspects, however, that is the beauty of our work. Despite what people may believe about Islam, the core message of Islam is that you can have a different view or opinion and that is how we would like it to be. I have learned this is a valuable service for not only those who choose to learn about Islam through the eyes of everyday, practicing Muslims but for those who have never even tried to enquire about it. Our feedback has been overwhelming from both pupils and teachers alike, I can’t remember a time when we have left a classroom and felt it was not a robust or informative experience for both sides.
To put it mildly I would say that Amina MWRC have provided a much-needed service for not only pupils and teachers but for volunteers alike to not only come together and share their opinions and learn from one another but to also embrace our differences and accept that we can be different and still hold those same values and principles, and enjoy each other’s practices while sharing a mutual respect and understanding. It only takes a little compassion, tolerance and willingness to be open.