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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Campus

Muslim Student Association promotes faith among students


Headed by president Waleed Vohra, the Muslim Student Association seeks to promote understanding of the Islamic faith on campus through events like Islam Awareness Week. l A.K. ALmoumen/The Cougar

From April 1 to April 5, the Muslim Student Association held Islam Awareness Week to promote the Islamic faith on campus in the hope of reaching a common understanding.

MSA seeks to reach out to the student body through socials and educational events, like Islam Awareness Week. Over the course of the week, students had the opportunity to learn about the Islamic religion’s stance on prominent issues like women’s rights, social justice and the arts.

“Our focus has shifted from doing events to educate our internal community but also educate the external community and just have dialogues,” said MSA President Waleed Vohra. “So instead of creating safe spaces, staying there, talking about the issues and patting ourselves on the back, we need to be out there.”

Founded in 1964, MSA was initially intended as a promotion for Friday prayer, an obligatory congregational prayer in the Islamic religion comparable to Sunday Mass for Catholics.

“Eventually, this campus was the first place in Houston that the Muslims had Eid prayer and was the jumping board for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which is now the body that oversees most mosques in the Greater Houston area,” Vohra said.

Traditionally geared more toward community events and the creation of a safe space, these efforts are still a major part of what the organization does, Vohra said.

“We held various types of events throughout each semester and occasionally during the breaks,” said former MSA President Ahmed Sarraj. “They ranged from weekly educational events that focused on Islamic knowledge to social events such as tailgating before the football game, as well as game nights.”

This was all in an effort to create a sense of community for Muslim students looking to make friends, an effort that the officers hold in high regard.

“MSA is one of those things that everyone is welcome — it’s like Grandma’s house,” said MSA Vice President Hadi Rahman. “If you want good, consistent events where you’ll be able to make new friends, MSA is there for you. Our events have leaned towards heavy interaction that allows people to feel included as Muslims in general.”

The MSA leaders believe their primary goal— beyond the creation of a safe space for Muslim students through initiatives, such as the elimination of fees for MSA membership— is to promote the success of their members. 

“I would say it’s very important to articulate our message properly because if you are not articulating your message, someone is doing it for you,” Vohra said. “And that’s one of our guiding philosophies: you need to lift up your own voices.”

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