Members of Rowan University’s Muslim community have used the Muslim Student Association (MSA) as a way to embrace their religion and to educate others about it. But this semester, MSA is serving an additional purpose: a support group for individuals hurt or affected by the president’s recent executive order.
Thursday was the start of a new semester for the organization. At its first meeting of the semester that night, the organization offered refreshments, an icebreaker activity, and information about Islam and the Muslim culture to a group of about one dozen.
The group heard an opening message from the Quran, then split into two teams to test their knowledge of Islam in a round of Jeopardy.
The club, now in its third year of charter at Rowan, is part of a national organization that has existed since 1963. The Muslim Student Association is found in chapters across the United States and Canada, including chapters in Philadelphia and Rutgers-Camden, according to the Rowan chapter president Shakwat Chowdhury.
Chowdhury, a senior mathematics and secondary education major, has been a member since his freshman year. He said he hoped the first meeting would provide a support-group atmosphere for people with fear about President Trump’s recent executive actions.
“The main purpose was to make sure everyone was comfortable,” Chowdhury said of the meeting. “We’re here to have a support group as well as to look out for people if they have any problem, and to learn about what Islam is about.”
The idea of a support-group atmosphere came in light of Trump’s executive order put into effect last Friday, which temporarily bars citizens and refugees of seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the United States. The countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia—are majority Muslim.
“We’re here to have a support group as well as to look out for people if they have any problem, and to learn about what Islam is about.” – shakwat chowdhury
Returning club members seemed pleased to meet again in a classroom in Robinson Hall after a month-long winter break. One of those returning members is MSA Secretary Riyyan Shariff, a sophomore bioinformatics major. He joined the club after existing members encouraged him to get involved because of his belief of “strengthening the Muslim community.”
“I heard that MSA here was new and recently just started out, so I really wanted to [become] active and help out and improve MSA,” Shariff said.
Before the semester, the executive board of the club met and Shariff created the club’s mission statement for the semester, which is to strengthen Rowan’s Muslim community.
“That’s our goal to push, to actually have a community of people around and to build that, which right now is very small,” he said. “Our end goal is to expand it as much as possible.”
MSA hosts a major event in the spring called “Islam 101” that aims to teach people more about the religion.
The club met their goal of seeing new faces at the meeting. Elementary education major Jess Abbott said she was encouraged to attend by her friend, who was already a member. If class doesn’t interrupt her schedule, Abbott is looking to come back to explore more of what the club offers.
“I do want to learn about the Muslim religion and culture,” Abbott said.
Both Muslim and non-Muslim members are welcome to join MSA. To keep in touch with Rowan MSA and to find out when future meetings and events are, follow them on Facebook.
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