MSA brings Islam Awareness Week to campus
Washington University’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) just wrapped up its programming for Islam Awareness Week on campus. MSA hosted four events from April 2-8 focusing on recognizing different Muslim identities, understanding challenges for the Muslim community and identifying ways to advocate for Muslim students on campus and in the greater St. Louis community.
Islam in Africa Discussion
The first event was a roundtable discussion about Islam in Africa facilitated by Professor El-Hadji Samba Amadou Diallo. The discussion featured brief presentations from MSA First-Year Representative Sabrina Sayed and Professor Diallo on the history of Islam in Africa.
Even though 47 percent of Africans are Muslim, African Islam has been largely neglected in discourse of Muslim politics. This erasure was discussed at the Islam in Africa discussion, particularly in the context of what members of MSA can do to make sure they promote an environment that is both accepting and encouraging of the membership and practices of Black and African Muslims. The discourse encouraged an environment that combats attitudes that “other” Black and African Muslims.
Students at the event had a positive discussion that promoted peace and acceptance for intersectional identities within the Muslim community. Everyone seemed committed to making space at the table for Muslims from all backgrounds and identities.
Eat Halal for a Day
The second event of the week came in the form of a challenge: Eat Halal all day April 4. This meant no pork, all meat had to be certified Halal and no alcohol (which, of course, wasn’t a problem for me since I’m only 19, and that would be illegal on any normal day).
I thought it would be super easy to find Halal options on campus…but it wasn’t. The hardest part was finding Halal-certified meat. The conclusion of this challenge? We need more Halal options across campus. By not having enough Halal options across campus, we contribute to a culture that denies Muslim students their identity. We have a whole Kosher station in BD and every dining spot on campus is always stocked with to-go options labeled ‘Kosher.’ I don’t understand why we can’t do the same thing for students who eat Halal.
There is some progress in this department, however. According to MSA, Wash. U. Dining Services has begun stocking pre-packaged Halal foods in Paws & Go and is looking into Halal hot meal options for dining halls across campus.
Halaqa — a Discussion on Income Equality
On April 6, MSA hosted a religious discussion on income equality in the Lopata Prayer Room. It was an educational and religious event dedicated to better understanding how income inequality affects Muslims. Integrating this discussion into a religious context did a great job legitimizing the discussion in terms of religious identity.
Raising Up Refugees
The last event, hosted Sunday, April 8, was a discussion about the community of refugees in St. Louis.
The discourse surrounded what the lives of Muslim refugees look like in St. Louis. There was also discussion about ways the Washington University community and MSA can participate in outreach to help strengthen and serve the refugee community.
As someone who isn’t Muslim, I learned a lot from participating in this week’s events. I think it’s important for students of all backgrounds and identities to learn more about MSA and what they do as an organization on campus, also taking time to understand the lives and challenges of Muslim students on our campus. The more we legitimize marginalized identities, the more we create an inclusive campus environment that promotes cultural diversity and acceptance.
I think it’s important to remember that just going to a cultural show once a year doesn’t mean you have succeeded in supporting an underrepresented community on campus. Those shows are important in the sense that they provide meaningful insights into points of pride and celebration for different cultural groups, but more steps need to be taken to gain a strong understanding of different identities present on campus. That’s why events like Islam Awareness Week are so important—they give students the proper space to learn how to be good advocates for classmates of different identity affiliations.
Remember: Events hosted by cultural groups are never limited to people affiliated by identity with the group in question. Show up, learn and participate.