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The Scarlet & Black

Muslim Student Association Gains Traction

Zina Ibrahim, Mari Holmes, and Ayesha Mirzakhail (all ’17) co-lead the Muslim Student Association. Photo by Rachel Neubauer.

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) is a student-run organization representing the Muslim minority on campus. They are concerned with educating the campus community about Islam and bringing together Muslim students in a space where they may comfortably share their thoughts and discuss issues pertaining to Islam. They are also one group that can explain what the Halal section in the Dining Hall is all about.

“When I think of MSA, I think of a community that’s not just for Muslims specifically, but—we’re very inclusive—I like to think of it as [a group] for everyone to come and learn about Islam,” said MSA co-leader Ayesha Mirzakhail ’17.

This theme of inclusiveness is an important part of the MSA, emphasized by the leaders’ welcoming outlook towards anyone who is curious about Islam. MSA also provides a wonderful resource to the Muslims on campus looking to practice and maintain a sense of community and solidarity while away from home.

Zina Ibrahim, Mari Holmes, and Ayesha Mirzakhail (all ’17) co-lead the Muslim Student Association. Photo by Rachel Neubauer.
Zina Ibrahim, Mari Holmes, and Ayesha Mirzakhail (all ’17) co-lead the Muslim Student Association. Photo by Rachel Neubauer.

“Typically, we talk about planning events for about half an hour, then we pray as a group for Maghrib [one of the five daily prayers performed by Muslims] and then we talk about certain issues that are brought up—for example, the other week we talked about polygamy in Islam and we had an open dialogue as to what that means and how we feel about that and how outsiders view that practice,” said MSA co-leader Mari Holmes ’17.

The Eid Dinner, one of the many events that the MSA is planning this year, will serve as a great way for the Muslim community on campus to enjoy this celebration. Open to all members of the College who buy a three-dollar ticket (all proceeds go to the Islamic Relief Fund Charity), this event promises to be a fantastic experience for everyone involved. Members from all over the world will share stories, photos and Islamic music—providing a truly diverse experience for an event that is, to most, awash with traditional and cultural familiarity.

“Eid is something really special—it’s a celebration we spend with our friends and family and it’s very difficult here because back home everyone’s celebrating—so we want this event to first and foremost celebrate this important religious holiday for us,” Holmes said. “In addition to educating the public, we want it to bring them into our lives what with all the Islamophobia that’s going around the world. The only way to educate the people about Islamophobia so that they don’t fear it is to invite them into our religion and our space.”

The organization, under the co-leadership of Holmes, Mirzakhail and Zina Ibrahim ’17, has recently grown in stature and activity.

“We worked extremely hard last semester to re-establish the organization—working really closely with the CRSSJ, we got the room painted, ordered more Islamic books like the Quran, more prayer clothes as well and just providing a safe space where anyone can come in, learn about Islam and have an open dialogue,” Holmes said.

The leaders of the MSA were extremely enthusiastic about their plans for the future and their focus on “Islam in the context of the U.S.” provides an extremely relevant forum for both Muslims and non-Muslims to learn and talk about Islam.

Events such as Islamic Awareness Week, an upcoming event hosted by the MSA, will serve as a great starting point for getting discourse started on campus. Holmes highlighted this fact, saying, “We’re dedicating a week to [Islamic Awareness Week], bringing in speakers, performers, [hosting] events, movies, talks to begin that dialogue of ‘Islam in the context of the U.S.’”

The MSA is a vital part of the Grinnell community already and under the current leadership, with its impeccable upholding of basic Grinnellian values of acceptance and inclusion, it is bound to grow and have an even larger impact on everyone affiliated. The MSA meets in the CRSSJ every Friday at 7 p.m. and the Eid dinner is Saturday, Oct. 4. If interested, contact Mari Holmes at [holmesma17] for more information.

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