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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Religion

Muslim Student Association draws a big crowd


A record of number of students showed up to the Muslim Student Associations first fall meeting. The organization is now waiving its membership fee to new members. | Photo Courtesy of Muslim Student Association

A record of number of students showed up to the Muslim Student Associations first fall meeting. The organization is now waiving its membership fee to new members. | Photo Courtesy of Muslim Student Association

As students settle into their weekly routine, student organizations across campus hit the ground running with events to attract members.

The Muslim Student Association kicked off the fall semester with a general body meeting that included a group “Jeopardy”-inspired game, kickball, tacos and a piñata Friday afternoon at the A. D. Bruce Religion Center.

There was an overwhelming number of Cougars in attendance, many of whom had never been involved with the organization. The second floor of the building became standing room only.

“We didn’t expect this many people. We didn’t even have enough chairs for the amount of people,” said petroleum engineer junior and MSA treasurer  Javid Sultan. “I think (UH) has such a diverse campus — one of the most diverse campuses in America — and people need to recognize all groups of people. It’s a group for everyone.”

Several of the students were familiar with MSA through the weekly Friday prayers they organize. Math junior Aala Al-Hasan, who has attended the prayers in the past, said she was excited to finally become a member of MSA after putting it off for years.

“It’s time to see myself being active,” Al-Hasan said. “The biggest thing is that MSA is open to all. They’re very welcoming, and they always help you out when you need them.”

The organization, which has been at UH for more than 20 years, has focused its energy on community outreach, education and professional development. During the meeting, the president and officers presented their plans for the semester. They laid out the groundwork for both religiocentric and non-religious activities, which included sporting events, barbecues, lectures and a charity 5K walk-a-thon.

Students were invited to join without a membership fee, which would be the first time the MSA has opened its doors for free, said one of the officers.

For biochemistry senior Dema Shobaki, being a part of the MSA for three years created a sense of belonging within the campus and Muslim communities.

“I think this club really wants to improve their community, through volunteering for example. So it’s a really good opportunity for people to get to know different cultures and different religions to bring people together for a common cause,” Shobaki said. “You don’t have to be Muslim to be involved.”

The MSA has not only created a hub of good work and outreach, but it has provided a family for the diverse student body that comes from all across the United States and worldwide.

President Omar Ali, who is a mathematical biology senior, took pride in the presence the organization has at UH.

“There are people who travel, who come here from different states, who don’t really know anyone,” Ali said. “Their source of meeting other people is through the MSA. As much as it is a religious thing, there is a very social aspect to it.”

As president, Ali serves on the A. D. Bruce Religion Center Board, where he engages in interfaith dialogue with other ministries and religious organizations on campus.

“One of the most beautiful things is finding some source of unity rather than focusing on the differences between religions,” Ali said.

Throughout the meeting, students forged personal connections with their peers and enjoyed a sense of comfort and belonging, like Aayna Shamsi, who is a first-year graduate student at the College of Pharmacy.

“I like that the organization, the structure, everything is laid out in front of the members. They provide the social aspect. That’s a bonding experience,” Shamsi said. “The kind of bonds that are being created right as we speak can go on for a lifetime.” [email protected]

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