Islam Awareness Week kicked off last night with a speech by the director of the International Union of Muslim Women, Chicago-based activist Aminah Assilmi.
The Harvard Islamic Society, which is sponsoring the week, has two other events planned: a panel discussion on Islam tomorrow and a dinner on Friday.
"This is the week we devout to educating and promoting a healthier understanding of Islam on campus," said Mitsuru L. Watanabe '98, the society's president.
More than 50 people came to Sever Hall last night to hear Assilmi's speech, "Islam: a Threat or Gift to America." The activist focused on the ways in which Islamic laws and beliefs could benefit American society.
"In Islam, you wish for your brother that which you would wish for yourself," she said. "We are to see to the needs of our brothers before we see to our own needs." Assilmi said such compassionate attitudes strengthen Islamic families.
"Family is the training ground for society," she said. "If we treat our spouses with compassion and mercy, our children learn compassion and mercy."
The speaker also argued that Islamic law has many benefits when compared with the American justice system.
"Islam punishments may seem harsh but you will see that they answer to the rights of all parties--the victim and the perpetrator," she said.
Assilmi also discussed divorce under Islamic law, and argued that many Americans hold a misconception that terrorism is related to Islam.
"Yes, there have been acts of terrorism committed by Muslims, but they are not with Islam," she said.
"I hope we will learn to listen to each other, to respect the beliefs of each other, and to recognize that we as Muslims are no one's enemy," Assilmi added. "We choose to be Muslim. It is a choice we make every day."
Several students who attended last night's speech say they would like to see similar events.
Sofia Chaudry, a Boston University junior, said: "I really think there should be more speakers like her in a University environment, because we're all here to learn."