This past week has been a fun-filled and enlightening time for many Muslim students on campus thanks to Muslim Students Association’s Rush Week events. The last event is MSA’s Eid Picnic at Mansfield Hollow Park today, Sept. 14, ending Rush Week with food, friends and fun! Other events from this week included an ice cream social and halaqa (religious story night), paint night, henna night for Muslim sisters and basketball and racquetball for Muslim brothers.
The purpose of Rush Week was simple: Outreach.
“[The purpose of rush week was] to reach out to Muslims who haven’t been reached out to by a Muslim community. With the world that we live in and the culture associated with Islam many young Muslims feel disconnected with not only their roots but also their religion because of olden, outdated, cultural norms,” Zaim Rana, MSA’s marketing chair and a third-year biology student, explained.
MSA’s vision for this year is to continue expanding and growing.
“We’ve grown from a student body of a little less than 30, most of them being graduate students, to most recently 200 registered undergraduate students... The best way to sustain this for the future is to have a full time Islamic Chaplain present at the university to represent as in the way we should be represented, to lead the movement of normalizing Islam on campus,” Fayssal Saleh, MSA’s two year president said.
As the times are changing and as the MSA community continues to get more and more diverse, varying in how religious members are, MSA makes an effort to address new and unorthodox topics. In the past, MSA was perceived as strictly a religious group, and now it is seen as a social group.
“As younger generations continue to be a part of the organization, the topics and discussions we host are more catered to what’s relevant now, such as mental health, the LGBTQ+ movement and systematic racial and religious oppression,” Saleh continued.
Shaheer Hassan (UConn ’18) got nostalgic about his time in MSA while visiting campus this week.
“I’ve been part of MSA since I was a senior in high school...back in the day there wasn’t much of an emphasis on the social aspect. We mostly focused on the religious and humanitarian aspects of Islam, but now we focus on professionalism,” Hassan said. His long term involvement created a special bond between him and the University of Connecticut MSA.
“Many of the aspects that make me who I am today are because of my time in MSA. MSA taught me what mentorship is and what real faith is like,” Hassan concluded.
Overtime, the students and the organization have changed. Current frehmen are highly attracted to the family-feel of MSA. Saud Maved, an international first-year undecided business student, said that he is excited to meet people without forgetting Islam.
“It’s a way of having a better social life,” Maved reflected as he talked about the overlap between religion and community. As an international student, Maved said, “MSA is the only thing that has helped me adjust. It’s a really important thing. If I wouldn’t be involved in MSA, I wouldn’t be here with all my new friends.”
Joining MSA helps unite those who practice Islam and those who want to learn more. For example, Luke Anderson, a third year nutritional sciences and anthropology student, joined MSA to learn more about Islam, even though he does not identify as Muslim.
“I’ve always seen the value that faith has in culture and in communities. I also identify as agnostic, not because I question the validity of individual faiths but because I see a lot of validity and commonality across faiths... The hospitality and openness of the Muslim community at UConn in supporting that interest of mine, no matter how open about it I am, is definitely what’s kept me coming back to MSA events whenever I can. Overall, being involved in MSA as a non-Muslim has helped me to expand my perspective of other cultures and how faith expresses itself to different people as well as just to expand my support network of friends I can count on brightening my day around campus,” Anderson discussed.
UConn MSA is a dynamic organization that changes with its members to create the most welcoming, safe space for all types of Muslims all around campus. In the MSA community, there is always someone just like you, someone that is going through the same religious inner conflicts as you. To join or learn more, stop by halaqa every Thursday night at 8 p.m. or Jummah (Friday prayer) at 1:15 p.m. at the Islamic Center of UConn.
Armana Islam is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.