by RIKKILYNN SHIELDS, Editor
Not only does Manhattan College’s Muslim Student Association sponsors weekly Jummah prayers facilitated by the Muslim Chaplain on campus, holiday celebrations, and other cultural events throughout the year, MCMSA also hosted a variety of events throughout last week, the week of April 16th, in accordance with Islam Awareness Week.
With the framework of Islam Awareness Week in mind, MCMSA worked to showcase their theme of Taking Back Our Narrative throughout each and every one of these events.
While many would assume that the Muslim community consists of mostly Arabic or South Asian people, the Muslim-American community is, in fact, the most ethnically diverse faith community in America. Part of not only Islam Awareness Week, but also the MCMSA is to highlight and showcase the diversity within the Muslim community.
Rabea Ali, a management and marketing double major and current president of MCMSA wanted to bring more awareness and change to MCMSA almost immediately after becoming a member.
“I was a part of the eboard unofficially last year and ultimately felt like much more could be done and thus took on the leadership with the goal of building this inclusive community on campus while educating the campus about Islam and bringing together the Muslims,” Ali said.
As president, Ali just about handles the bulk of everything, along with the help of her six e-board members and over fifteen unofficial members.
Amanda Lazkani, a chemical engineering major from Staten Island became a part of MCMSA after Ali announced to her that she would be president this year. As one of Ali’s friends, Lazkani knew she had to get involved.
“My friend, Rabea Ali, had been an active member her freshman year, and when she told me she was going to be President this year, I knew it was something I had to be a part of. She had all of these amazing ideas to promote MSA and make it an honorable club on campus. MSA’s standards this year is nothing compared to last year’s executive board members. The event coordinating has been top notch and the turnout for all of their events has been extremely encouraging. I am a huge supporter of this organization, and I always try my best to promote their many events that they offer throughout the semester. You can say I am their biggest fan!” Lazkani said.
On Monday, April 16th, MCMSA led a Town Hall meeting addressing misconceptions about Islam, which took place at 4:30 PM in the Kelly Commons 5A. This was not only an education session but also an open forum discussing the misconceptions regarding the Islamic community. Lazkani spoke at this forum, and addressed diversity and representation in Islam.
“Some ideas I brought up were how Islam is one of the most diverse religions in the world, where I spoke about a personal story regarding this. I was once questioned as to how my skin can be white but also be Muslim. I got a lot of praise for bringing this up because people need to be called out on responses like this. I also spoke about the association of terrorism and Islam, and briefly discussed what the hijab means and represents in Islam,” Lazkani said.
Jannat Iftikhar, a junior radiation therapy attended the Misconceptions in Islam forum on Monday.
“There were a bunch of different presentations discussing misconceptions and problems based on culture and religion. It was nice because a lot of people came to discuss the importance of being aware of these problems in our everyday lives, and gaining that understanding from a different point of view,” Iftikhar said.
On Tuesday, April 17th, MCMSA tabled in the Thomas Hall vestibule to educate people about Islamophobia, while also encouraging students and faculty to write on a whiteboard they provided, to add their own message of solidarity.
That night, A Night with a Muslim Hip Hop artist took place in Hayden 100. Both Alia Sharrief and Miss Undastood represented Muslim women in hip hop by performing some of their own songs.
“I was the photographer for the night, trying to capture everyone’s smile in the audience, and Alia’s amazing performance. Alia was very conversational with everyone and created a tight-knit group. She discussed how she overcomes the stereotypes that people have towards Islam, and who and what influenced her to become an artist. She is truly a musician who is proud to represent her faith. We all had a laugh and really enjoyed our time with her,” Lazkani said.
Throughout the week, MCMSA is also hosted a panel of Muslim students from Manhattan College, the College of Mount Saint Vincent, Fordham University, and NYIT. There was also a film screening of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the third Interfaith Jummah prayer of the year, and a 40 minute film about sexual assault in the Muslim & Desi communities.
With this past week being MCMSA’s first official Islam Awareness Week, the true passion and involvement that the entire eboard and all of its members have shows through every single event that MCMSA put on throughout the entire week.
“Closing off the semester, the MSA will have its usual weekly programming of Office Hours w/ the Muslim Chaplain and Jummah Prayer. IA week was our closing events for the semester but we will absolutely be back with more next semester for sure. We’re always involved in a bunch of things such as Mission Month Day of Service or the HGI Education Center events we support or really anything CMSA puts on!” Ali said.
For all of the e-board members and other members of MCMSA in general, Islam Awareness Week was an amazing week full of screenings, events, panels and more, showcasing all of the diversity not only on the Manhattan College campus, but also within the Muslim community itself.
“Islam Awareness Week has been such a touching event that I am so honored to be part of. This means the world to me because people will finally view Islam through the right lens. Personally, I was finally able to share my story with Manhattan College, and open up about my experience and how being a Muslim woman has taken me through many obstacles in life, but has also been a very rewarding and unique journey,” Lazkani said.
For anyone looking to get involved in MCMSA, Ali made it clear that “the MSA is an inclusive club of all people of all backgrounds! Anyone can join and we welcome anyone.”
“You can join our email list by shooting us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit us up on social media @manhattanmsa on FB and IG as well. As for getting involved with the eboard and planning, all eboard meetings are also open to the public so feel free to drop by with ideas and suggestions. Feedback on events is always wanted and welcome!” Ali said.
While this may be her first year as president, Ali sure has proven to the Manhattan College community, as well as the community, the passion she upholds for not only her faith, but also the equal representation of everyone.
“To me, IA Week means many things. For one, it is our first annual and truly the year the MSA has made its presence known on campus in a post-Trump world for in my opinion as Muslims we no longer have the privilege to sit around and let this Islamophobic world go by and this rhetoric to get pushed in everyday life and so we truly amped up our programming and addressing education and awareness. IA Week was the culmination of this semester’s work and events and honestly represents the building of an inclusive community on campus whilst educating the general MC population as well as taking back our stories and no longer letting people speak over us or for us but rather speaking for ourselves. I actually had IA week in mind when I first began my role in the MSA as president and so it truly also means it finally is happening and it is honestly something I’m incredibly proud of myself and my executive board both official and unofficial,” Ali said