On Monday Oct. 15, students at the University of Regina were welcomed into the Riddell Centre hallway by roses of every kind. Attached to each rose was a short quote from the teachings of the religion of Islam. Organized by a group of Muslim students on campus, the ‘Rose Project’ handed out 800 roses in four hours.
According to Debra Schubert, one of the project’s organizers, the idea for the project came “after a lot of negative ideas in the media regarding Muslims – especially in the last month or so. We wanted to counteract that.”
Schubert pointed to the Taliban’s attempted assassination of Pakistani education activist, Malala Yousafzai, as a recent event that created major uproar throughout the world, further building the stereotype that Islam oppressed women. A Taliban gunman recently shot Yousafzai in the head and neck to prevent her from going to school and promoting education for young girls. Currently, Yousafzai resides in a U.K. hospital, and is in stable condition.
Stories like Yousafzai’s were part of the inspiration for the Rose Project, Schubert explained.
The idea for the project began in Europe, with Muslim communities in the UK and Norway taking the lead. Soon, the idea spread to North America.
“The roses are nice and a symbol of love and peace. It facilitates to convey the message of love and peace,” said Nawaf Al-Zahrani, another student organizer for the project.
“Overall, I think the majority liked it [and] they were very pleased with the initiative. I saw a lot of people smiling and thanking us for doing something like this. Of course, there was a little bit of negativity, but I embraced that as well because I was happy to have a chance to have a dialogue. It was a chance for me to dispel some negative ideas.” – Debra Schubert
Schubert states close to 15 volunteers set up a table in the Riddell Centre and answered questions, handed out roses, and clarified misconceptions.
Schubert also noted that although Muslims highlighted in the media are often “doing the bad things,” she believes “the things these Muslims are doing are not things found in the teachings of Islam.”
Al-Zahrani was in agreement, adding that handing out the roses and talking to students helped encourage him to “clarify misconceptions about Prophet Muhammad and Islam.”
While student feedback was mostly positive, Schubert admitted that there were a few negative responses as well.
“Overall, I think the majority liked it and they were very pleased with the initiative,” she said. “I saw a lot of people smiling and thanking us for doing something like this. Of course, there was a little bit of negativity, but I embraced that as well because I was happy to have a chance to have a dialogue. It was a chance for me to dispel some negative ideas.”
Despite the negative feedback, Schubert said that keeping the lines of communication open is paramount.
“A peaceful community, and that if you have any questions or concerns you can come talk to us, and we can do something together to change the mind set of the community. It’s important to start a dialogue, and this event was a chance to [do that] and be more present and approachable."