Muslim Student Association Club Debuts

Hana Ali, Editor-in-Chief

At the first meeting of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), President Maryam Nijmeh randomly picks out notecards that students anonymously wrote regarding their concerns as Muslims in America.

She reads, “I feel like Muslims aren’t given a chance because of a few individuals, so they are often times ignored and misunderstood.”

A few in the room sigh as others speak up about feeling the same way.

She continues to grab another notecard and reads, “Hijab (head scarf) and terrorist jokes aren’t funny.”

Heads nod in agreement.

As she looks down, she reads, “I wish non-Muslims could be more understanding when I practice my religion in public.”

This last comment resonates with Nijmeh the most. After all, this is the reason she wanted to start the club.

“I thought it was important to have an opportunity for Muslims to become better followers of their religion and to educate people about the true meaning of Islam,” she said.

Sophomore Fatema Dohadwala said she joined MSA, which meet for the first time after school last Wednesday, in Room 2022, to get to know more Muslims around the school.

“I felt it would be helpful and fun to be part of an organization that I could relate to,” she said.

The meeting was successful, Dohadwala said.

“We discussed plans for the club and topics involving Islam in daily life, which intrigued many,” she said. “Nobody really wanted to leave because the conversations could go on forever.”

Starting MSA was a collaborative effort, Nijmeh said.

“I was one of the few to initiate something, but I had support,” she said. “My friend from Mansfield High School gave me some advice since they started one earlier this year. Our sponsor, Mrs. (Cindy) Malone, and other friends helped as well.”

When Malone agreed to be the club’s sponsor, Nijmeh said was excited.

“When I asked her, she told me that she was 100 percent on board,” she said. “It took me a while to get it together and have a meeting with the assistant principal. Without a sponsor you can’t really do anything, so it just made things easier and faster.”

Nijmeh presented a PowerPoint to Assistant Principal Andrew Marsh.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Marsh said. “It was a club we didn’t have on campus. Last year we started a Christian Club, so it’s nice to offer different options for our students.”

Non-Muslims are encouraged to join, junior Mona Al-Yafai said.

“The media usually shows all of the bad stuff Muslims do,” she said. “This will be a nice chance to not only unite all of the Muslims here together, but allow others to truly get to know more about the religion through our words and actions.”

Meetings will take place every two weeks on Wednesdays.

“We want to not only educate people, but volunteer as a group often,” Al-Yafai said.

The group plans to host a Muslim Awareness Day that will focus on the history and basics of Islam.

“A lot of people have a stereotypical look on Islam and associate it with terrorists or that women don’t have rights,” Nijmeh said. “We want to change that ‘look’ with events like these.”

Officers like Dohadwala, named Secretary, were elected at the meeting.

“Doing this sets a necessary base for the club,” she said. “A committed group of officers helps everything run smoothly and more organized.”

MSA members voiced their concern that they don’t really have a place to pray to Marsh, Nijmeh said.

“Prayer is a part of a Muslims’ everyday life,” she said. “We pray five times a day and we should not feel as if we can’t do that at school, which is basically like a second home to us. It’s important that all people feel comfortable and have opportunity to practice their faith.”

Students may now request to leave class for a quick prayer and report to a nearby AP office with a pass.

“We didn’t want students being alone without adult supervision or (for) some (to) take advantage of it, so we offered the space in an AP office,” Marsh said. “It wasn’t brought to my attention until MSA asked though.”

Marsh said he hopes that all students are comfortable at school.

“We are a school that welcomes everybody and we want to educate people on different types of thoughts,” Marsh said. “Sometimes in our culture, people have a lot of misconceptions about people and they really don’t know all what all is involved.”

Anyone can join the group at any time of the year.

“I believe it (MSA) will help Muslims become closer as a community and help each other out,” Dohadwala said. “I also hope it aids non-Muslims in learning more about Islam and getting rid of misconceptions.”