June 23, 2024

Diversity through dialogue: the Muslim Student Association fights misconceptions

Young students around the world have become the frontrunners of social change. The university itself has had a longstanding tradition of student-led activism, which has united the student body under values of awareness and inclusivity.

The university is home to multiple socially-engaged student organizations such as Pride, the Capital Autism Society and the Socialist Student Union (SSU), all of which aim to inspire action and promote change.

In particular, a recent organization dedicated to addressing the needs of the university’s Muslim students has been gaining significant traction.

The university’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) was recently established in order to create a safe space for students who follow the teachings of Islam and promote a healthy view of the religion for those who may be unfamiliar.

“Since this campus is very small, I know that the population of Muslims is low,” said Boshra Shreiqein, MSA president. “So just having a Muslim organization not only provided the several Muslims on campus a safe environment, but it also allowed those who are curious about Islam to be able to join as well.”

One of the primary goals of the MSA is to dismantle various stereotypes and misconceptions of Muslims and the Islamic religion, which have served to harm the public’s perception of Islam. 

“In my life, I have observed that stereotypes and misconceptions are generally formed by either a lack of an open mind, an inability to break away from something someone has been told is true their whole life or the absence of a desire to learn,” said Adham Hamed, MSA treasurer. 

“All of these effects can become intensified when people refer to social media, which is an unavoidable medium in everyone’s life, as their source of facts, not to the book of the faith. Along with this, stereotypes can be reinforced by people who get offended when their belief is questioned.”

The MSA hosts multiple events each year, such as a lecture panel from the fall of 2023 entitled “Misconceptions of Islam.” Members of the MSA spoke on topics like the difference between culture and religion, as well as the misconception that Muslim people are inherently Arabic or Middle-Eastern.

Through their work, the MSA hopes to spread healthy discourse and encourage kindness and open-mindedness.

“In all religions, we are taught to be friends with our neighbors, treat people the way you want to be treated, you know,” said Shreiqein. “And so Islam is just being at peace, being peaceful with others, being kind to others, being patient with others, helping those around you.”

The work of the MSA extends beyond specific events on campus. As a result of engaging with the university community, more people have expressed interest in learning more about Islam and the organization itself.

“I think the changes being made right now from events such as our panels, lectures and cultural engagements are powerful and are truly enabling us as an organization to promote a healthy outreach and civil conversation,” said Hamed. “When people hear that I am a part of MSA, they often ask me what the organization does and then they ask me questions about Islam and the messages conveyed by Islam. It always nuances into amazing conversations and a pleasant interaction.”

The MSA’s influence has been seen in the religious sector of the university, such as in the development process for a new interfaith prayer room in Trinity Lutheran Seminary.

In addition, they have expressed the desire to partner with the mosques around Bexley and connect with the Greater Columbus Muslim community.

The work of the MSA highlights the effectiveness of how young people are enacting change in their communities. Their commitment to preserve and promote their faith influences not only the immediate campus community, but also the greater sense of Islamic culture.

“Being Muslim to me is not only affiliating with a faith, but adhering to a set of principles and a lifestyle I deeply believe in and has constantly been my guiding light, no matter what I encounter,” said Hamed. 

You can find the MSA on Engage and on Instagram at @capitalmsa.

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