Muslim Students Association Works to Build Membership, Resources

After two years of inactivity, two students are breathing new life into The Muslim Student’s Association (MSA). Through re-establishing MSA on campus, Salman Safir ’16 and Karim Sariahmed ’13,  aim to strengthen the Muslim student community and provide support for worship.

According to Safir, MSA is a group where any and all students can come to learn about Islam. “It’s intended to be a support group, a free space open and accepting to all.” Sariahmed said MSA’s goal is to create visibility and awareness for the Swarthmore Muslim community.

Safir said he was motivated to revive MSA last fall when he realized there was no room at Swarthmore to perform Friday prayers, which are mandatory for followers of Islam.

Safir was not alone in thinking Muslims have had difficulty practicing on campus. Sariahmed said that because his freshman orientation overlapped with Ramadan, an Islamic holy month that is observed by fasting from dawn to sunset, he felt he missed out on many social activities like hall dinner. Since then, he has worked to ensure Sharples makes take out boxes available during Ramadan, and even organized a Ramadan dinner his sophomore year.

But it was not until this fall, when Safir got in touch with Sariahmed, who was leading MSA at the time, that the group developed a clear path forward. The two had a chance to share thoughts during a fall retreat organized by the Intercultural and Black Cultural Centers, where they planned to get chartered and ask for funds.

Safir said they received strong support from Protestant Advisor Joyce Tompkins and Director of the Intercultural Center Alina Wong, who also serves as Dean of the Sophomore Class.

“I am thrilled that MSA is reviving this year,” Tompkins said. “They’ve been meeting again and asking for access to funds and a prayer room. I think it would be wonderful for the Muslim students on campus and for attracting more Muslim students to Swarthmore.”

Currently, “there’s a pretty regular group of a dozen people that comes to our biweekly meetings,” Safir said. MSA’s regular meetings take place every Friday at 1 pm in the Wellness Lounge. The meetings, like the rest of MSA’s events, are open to all Swatties.

During Garnet weekend, MSA hosted a dinner for Eid-ul-adha, one of the most important holidays in Islam. “Around 50 people showed up, including some faculty members and students from Haverford,” he said.

In the future, Safir hopes to plan more community-building events, such as movie nights and Quran study groups. “This year I want to try harder to engage the freshman and make upperclassmen available for support,” he said.

Tompkins said that when she first arrived at Swarthmore eight years ago, the MSA was very active and sponsored interfaith events like scriptural reasoning sessions, where Muslim, Christian, and Jewish students gathered to read and study the Bible. Tompkins is hopeful that interfaith activity will increase in the future.

Sariahmed explained that the group’s activity faltered in the past couple of years because as senior leaders graduated, the remaining members organized fewer and fewer events. “As the semester goes on, membership falls off, because everyone has lots of different interests,” Sariahmed said.

Another reason the frequency of events dropped is that Muslim Swatties vary widely in their practices and commitment levels. Those who practice Islam in private are not always noticed by MSA, Sariahmed said.

“There are many enthusiastic [Muslim students] who don’t necessary practice it in a social manner,” he said. “It’s very private for them.”

Yousef Alhessi ’16, a member of MSA,  said he would like to see more discussion of religion in everyday conversation, “Islam isn’t just a religion, it impacts every part of my life. [But] students at Swarthmore don’t really care about religion. They often discuss philosophy or science problems, but I don’t know why people feel uncomfortable talking about religion.” Alhessi contrasted Swarthmore with Gaza, where he grew up. There, he said, students analyze religion in school, where he learned how to judge his beliefs for himself.

“Religion to me is very personal,” Safir said. “I pray five times a day, and I try to think about it in all aspects of my life.” However, he thinks the campus community is a place where Islam can transcend individual habits. “Swarthmore is a very accepting community,” he said. “When I tell people I’m Muslim they give me more of a positive reaction that just ‘oh, okay.’ They’re more curious about it.”

Tompkins felt that the Administration could do more to support religious life and interfaith events, both of which she believes are currently on the margins of Swarthmore life. “Even the physical location of Bond Hall, [home to the Interfaith Center], is at the edge of campus,” she said.

She expressed interested in a dedicated prayer space closer to the center of campus. “The admissions office has called me to say, we have a prospective Muslim student visiting, can he come down to Interfaith Center for noontime prayers? And unfortunately, I had to say, no, we don’t have a space for that.”

“In an ideal world,” she said, there would also be a staff position for religion and spirituality as part of the Dean’s Office. Currently there are Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish advisors, but none for Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. Part of the reason for that, Tompkins said, is their salary is paid by outside religious organizations, including the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Partners in Ministry, and Hillel.

 

Photo courtesy of The Muslim Students Association.


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17 comments

  1. 0
    Andrew Anderson says:

    This person Ganesha Akbar is insane. It seems like she is the terrorist. The MSA is a group like any other campus organization. The main focus of it is to pray on campus rather then go to a mosque that could be far, which makes it hard to do so or miss the prayer altogether. I think we should harass and bother Ganesha Akbar and prevent her from joining any clubs, or creating any clubs, and shut down any clubs that would seem interesting to her to show her how it feels, freedom of religion to everyone except her. She is probably not proud that she is secretly a muslim and cant change that, just look at her name allahu akbar, she is probably black. I am muslim but you dont see me annoying people.

    1. 0
      Probably Elephant says:

      Cluebat to Bigot: “Ganesha akbar” isn’t a name. It’s a exclamatory sentiment of ironic humor.

      Try harder to avoid attacking folks for being “probably black.”

      /gaze

    2. 0
      Free Constantinople! says:

      ^ Fascinating. Here we see a near textbook specimen of psychological projection.

      Smear campaigns are default tactics of insane Leftist wacademics: intellectually bankrupt as it is, it hopes to silence its critics, rather than dealing with them on the level of ideas. They can’t answer cited evidence, so they hope to discredit the messengers. Islamo-supremacists(as well as Leftist apologists) reflexively pretend to be “harrassed,” hoping thereby to make people of good will turn away from their opponent’s message.

      In reality, Secular Muslims are dedicated to the defense of human rights for all people against those who would impose Islamic (sharia) law, with its institutionalized discrimination against women and religious minorities, over both Muslim and non-Muslim societies.

      There is no harrassment in this, except when we report the words of hatred and supremacism (“probably black”) of the jihadists and their Leftist-fascist toadies. We are trying to raise awareness of the nature, extent, and goals of the global jihad, which threatens everyone who loves and cherishes freedom and the equality of rights of all people before the law.

      And so, we are going to fight their smears and jeers. Wherever you are today, know this: we will not be vilified and silenced, when we are telling the truth.

      Secular Muslims (interested in reform) remain unsupported because far too many academics fear being accused (falsely) of bigotry by jihadists, more than they fear being branded moral cowards for abandoning the defense of human rights.
      http://www.centerforinquiry.net/isis

  2. 0

    really wonderful work Allah yjazikom Khir , i think it will be better too if you talk with persons who have experience in this field in diffrent countries
    may be people like Pier vogel (german muslim preacher) or Yusuf estes ….

    just suggestion hope it is helpfull 🙂

    @Karim Sariahmed
    you know i’m a daughter of Nadjet Aiuoaze
    really proud of you

    1. 0
      Ganesha akbar says:

      Puhleaze! Spare folks the silly kabuki theatre.

      Riddle me this, taqiyya-vendor: If your “MSA” is unaffiliated with MSA National, then why adopt the name of these odious Muslim Brotherhood affiliates?

      More importantly, why do MSA members from so many of these “unaffiliated” clubs consistently choose to join terrorist affiliates and involve themselves in terror plots?
      http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-muslim-student-associations-terror-problem/

      The cited evidence demonstrates that MSA has been a virtual terror factory. Time after time after time again, we see these terrorists (and not just fringe members– these are MSA leaders) who’ve been implicated, charged and convicted in terrorist plots.

      But here’s a novel alternative for any brave Muslims genuinely interested in affirming their inviolable freedom of individual conscience: Try starting a Student Muslim Association (SMA).
      http://www.centerforinquiry.net/isis

  3. 0
    Monsoon says:

    Disgusted by the first comment and the fact that the poster deliberately chose the handle of a Hindu god to further provoke a reaction. I am very happy that the MSA is active again. I think we need diversity in campus life and religious diversity is a very important part of that. I also think that it has the potential to become a very comforting space for students who identify as Muslim.

    1. 0
      Ganesha akbar says:

      pffl

      Smear campaigns are default tactics of Leftist wacademics: intellectually bankrupt as it is, it hopes to silence its critics, rather than dealing with them on the level of ideas. They can’t answer cited evidence, so they hope to discredit the messengers. Leftists (as well as apologists for Islamo-supremacism) reflexively pose as “disgusted,” hoping thereby to make people of good will turn away from their opponent’s message.

      In reality, Secular Muslims are dedicated to the defense of human rights for all people against those who would impose Islamic (sharia) law, with its institutionalized discrimination against women and religious minorities, over both Muslim and non-Muslim societies.

      There is no provocation in this, except when we report the words of hatred and supremacism of the jihadists and their Leftist-fascist toadies. We are trying to raise awareness of the nature, extent, and goals of the global jihad, which threatens everyone who loves and cherishes freedom and the equality of rights of all people before the law.

      And so, we are going to fight their smears and jeers. Wherever you are today, know this: we will not be vilified and silenced, when we are telling the truth.

      Secular Muslims (interested in reform) remain unsupported because far too many academics fear being accused (falsely) of bigotry by jihadists, more than they fear being branded moral cowards for abandoning the defense of human rights.
      http://www.centerforinquiry.net/isis

      So, own your disgust, Monsoon. It’s all yours.

  4. 0
    Salman Safir says:

    The MSA at Swarthmore College is not affiliated with any terrorist organizations nor does it condone or in any way support the actions of terrorist groups. The MSA aims to spread peace and love on the campus and in the community. We hope to open discussion with the diverse religious views on campus in order to gain a better understanding and appreciation for the beauty in everyone and their beliefs. Only through peaceful collaboration can we end the misconceptions that exist about the religion of Islam and its followers. It is unfortunate that these stereotypes plague many diverse groups across the globe resulting in a misguided view of the kindness, compassion, and generosity in the hearts of others. We share our world with each other, and by opening our hearts and minds to differing views we can create a world that cherishes the success and happiness of others.
    Wishing all a week of great health and success,
    Salman

    1. 0
      Ganesha akbar says:

      Safir’s gratuitous denials are unsupported by cited evidence– and under rules of logic are equally gratuiously dismissed.

      Once again, the above cited Investigative Project evidence meticulously demonstrates that MSA are a notorious Muslim Brotherhood affiliate and propaganda mouthpiece for Hamas terrorists.

      For those interested in a fuller disclosure of MSA terrorism enablers, read their dossier @
      http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=6175

      Try harder to avoid peddling taqiyya.

  5. 0
    E. C. says:

    Congratulations to the MSA members for reinvigorating such an important group! Best of luck, and I’m sorry the first comment on this article was so hateful.

  6. 0
    Ganesha akbar says:

    In the interest of full disclosure, MSA are a notorious Muslim Brotherhood affiliate and propaganda mouthpiece for Hamas terrorists.

    Recall also, in a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that makes it a crime for Americans to provide “material support” of any kind (be it in the form of cash, weaponry, training, personnel, services, or “expert advice or assistance”) to a foreign terrorist organization, even if that support is for (ostensibly) peaceful purposes.

    Hamas would be one such example. It conducts terrorist attacks against Israel with one part of its organization while spitting propaganda lies with another. Propagandizing for them allows Hamas to not have to spend propaganda funds for its terrorist activities.

    Upcoming Congressional hearings will undoubtedly focus the spotlight on SJP terrorism enablers. For those interested in a fuller disclosure of the MSA, read their dossier @ http://www.investigativeproject.org/profile/166

    So, thanks once again to MSA propagandists for making it easier for Obama’s NSA to track your activities and Holder’s Justice Department to prosecute your material support propaganda campaign.

    And good luck finding a job with “terrorism enabler” emblazoned on your resume.

    1. 0
      For what it's worth says:

      Contrary to my usual ideological leanings, I think the majority in HLP v. Holder probably got it right. But the law would obviously violate the First Amendment if it prohibited what you suggest, that is, if any advocacy in support of a terrorist organization qualified as “material support.” (At issue in the case was ACTUAL SERVICES provided to terrorist organizations, actual services that had expressive components.)

      1. 0
        Ganesha akbar says:

        Obviously, the game of playing footsie with terrorists (under cover of our 1st amendment) has come to a close.

        ======
        “Former Congressman Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Justice, Acting as Unregistered Foreign Agent”
        http://kansascity.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/pressrel10/kc070710.htm

        “A former congressman and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations pleaded guilty in federal court today to obstruction of justice and to acting as an unregistered foreign agent related to his work for an Islamic charity with ties to international terrorism, announced Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri…”

        [Those puckering sounds you hear are the tightening sphincters of Hamas-huggers in wacademia.]

      2. 0
        Ganesha akbar says:

        Pernicious nonsense!

        Terrorism propaganda is not “free speech” any more than any other conspiracy to commit mass murder– just ask the Executioner-in-Chief of American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki and his son.

        But the motives and actions of wacademic apologists for Islamo-supremacism are evil, and ought to be so recognized by people of good faith. Their reasoning sounds insane because it is– and they are.

        For a more scholarly discussion of the phenomenon, read “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left”
        [Van Pelt Library Stack HN90.R3 H593 2004]

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