Q&A: Four from four

What members of UND’s Muslim community want others to know

(Left to Right) Bailey Bubach, faculty and professional advisor for petroleum engineering from Grand Forks; Rehan Ali Mohammed, petroleum engineering master’s student from Hyderabad, India; Maram Al-Sayaghi, a chemical engineering doctoral student from Sana’a, Yemen; and Mehdi Ostadhassan, assistant professor of petroleum engineering, a native of Iran. Photo by Richard Larson.

(Left to Right): Rehan Ali Mohammed, petroleum engineering master’s student from Hyderabad, India; Bailey Bubach, faculty and professional advisor for petroleum engineering from Grand Forks; Mehdi Ostadhassan, assistant professor of petroleum engineering, a native of Iran; and Maram Al-Sayaghi, a chemical engineering doctoral student from Sana’a, Yemen. Photo by Richard Larson.

UND Today sat down recently with four Muslim members of the University community for a Q&A to learn more about Islam.

We visited with Bailey Bubach, faculty and professional advisor for petroleum engineering from Grand Forks; Rehan Ali Mohammed, petroleum engineering master’s student from Hyderabad, India; Maram Al-Sayaghi, a chemical engineering doctoral student from Sana’a, Yemen; and Mehdi Ostadhassan, assistant professor of petroleum engineering, a native of Iran.

Here’s what they said:

What do you wish people knew about Islam?

Rehan: I wish people knew that Islam is a religion of peace. We believe that Jesus Christ and Moses were prophets before Mohammad, who is the last prophet. We have great respect for Jesus and Moses.

Maram: I wish people would not judge me for the scarf on my head but what’s inside my head. I’m just like any other person, and it’s not fair to be judged by appearances or to associate me with a small group of extremists who misrepresent Islam. That’s like saying all Asians are from China. It’s just not true.

Bailey: I wish people knew that Islam is a peaceful religion. I grew up in Grand Forks and converted to Islam. I follow and practice Islam because of my own understanding, not because my husband or anyone else asks me to do it. I do it for myself and God. My family is Christian, and I respect those traditions and incorporate new traditions into the holidays.

Mehdi: We don’t believe in rewards for killing people. If you kill someone on purpose, you go directly to hell. The Koran is very clear on that.

Also, the head covering is not only for females. Males also should have the hijab.

What do people get right about your faith?

Maram: I lived in the United Kingdom to earn my bachelor’s degree. When people saw my scarf, they knew there was a red line – there were things I will not do, such as hug, kiss, or drink. I didn’t have to explain it.

Mehdi:  I like it when people ask about our dietary restrictions. We don’t eat pork or drink alcohol, and we eat halal meats as prescribed by Islamic law. The University is recognizing this, and Terrace Dining Center has foods that follow those rules. Also, when I had a meal with President Kennedy, his staff asked if I had dietary restrictions. I really appreciate that.

Rehan: I am happy when people research the Koran and the sayings of the prophet from 1,400 years ago. When people realize those prophecies are happening now, it makes me happy.

UND Muslim community speaks

What’s the most annoying question you’re asked?

Rehan: People ask if you’re Sunni or Shiite. We all follow the same religion and are of the same faith. People created this division years ago, but the Koran says there is one prophet and one religion.

Bailey: We all believe in the same thing. The important thing is how you practice Islam and its  pillars.

Maram: What makes us Muslim is our foundation. We’re like a tree. We come from the same trunk, and it branches out.

Bailey: The most annoying question I’m asked is where I’m from. And when I say I’m from Grand Forks, they ask where I’m really from!

Maram: People ask if I have hair under my head covering. Of course I do!

What is your favorite holiday food?

Mehdi: I love Thanksgiving! I like turkey, and especially all the desserts.

Rehan: I make Chicken 65, steamed chicken with rice, really spicy. Everyone loves it.

Bailey: I’ve visited Iran three times, and really liked the food. My favorite is fesenjoon, which is meat flavored with pomegranates and walnuts.

Maram: If you ever go to Yemen – I don’t recommend doing that right now – try hanith. It’s a celebration food with meat wrapped in banana leaves and put in a pot, then cooked in a pit of hot rocks for eight hours. It’s heaven on Earth!

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