What started out as a small branch of the Center for Multicultural Affairs has grown into a very promising student organization, with an active and dedicated membership. The Muslim Student Association at EMU has sewn itself tightly into the fabric of our community.
The Muslim Student Association won the 2012 Student Government Charity Challenge. Each year EMU’s Student Government holds a contest amongst the student organizations to see who can raise the most money for a Michigan-based nonprofit of their choice, with the promise of matching the winner’s amount up to $2,000.
“We got the full $2,000,” said Zaineb Al-Kalby, vice president of the MSA. “We picked the organization Life for Relief and Development and all of the money we raised is going to help out the people of Syria,” she said, alluding to the country’s current and very violent uprising.
She pointed to a giant check, made out to the Muslim Student Association for $2,000, displayed proudly in the MSA office.
“We held a lot of fundraisers and had donation boxes at our events,” Al-Kalby said. “A bakery in Dearborn even put out a donation box for us.”
The MSA hosts a multitude of events each year, all of which boast good attendance and aim to involve and educate the community about their religion and experiences. Many of these events are dinners, guest lectures and multicultural discussions that are hosted jointly with other student organizations. They also tend to double as fundraisers.
“We have so many events, we don’t even know where to start,” said Nadia Aggour, president of the MSA. She and Al-Kalby began to list off some of MSA’s events.
This semester the Muslim Student Association teamed up with a handful of other student organizations, including the Arab Student Association and the International Student Association, to bring the Arab Awakening lecture series to campus. This series featured guest speakers and discussions to educate audiences on various aspects and effects of the Arab Spring, the series of protests and revolutions that has been taking place throughout the Middle East for over a year now.
The MSA also hosts an annual dinner celebration, the Eid al-Adha dinner held in the Student Center. They have hosted the Eid al-Adha for two years now. It is a religious celebration that is open to the community and often features guest speakers and entertainment.
This tradition, though new, started off almost too successfully.“The first year we had something like 700 people,” said Aggour. “It was actually chaotic. It was way more than we had planned for. This year we aimed smaller and it was much better.”
They quickly learned to plan for attendance after that. “Now we’ll say, ‘Okay we should aim for 50 people to come,’ and then we’ll only advertise for a small event.”
In addition to dinners and lectures, MSA tries to involve students in more “day in the life” type of experiences and hosts events like A Walk In My Shoes and Fast-a-Thon.
The former is a day in which non-Muslim women wear a hijab and dress modestly for a day, as would a Muslim woman, and then discuss their experience and observations. “We want people to ask why they’re wearing a hijab. We get asked that all the time. We want people to openly discuss these kinds of things,” said Al-Kalby.
Fast-a-Thon is based on an Islamic tradition and is another annual event which calls on participants to fast for a day, from sunrise to sunset. There is a dinner held in the evening, which features a guest speaker. “One year we donated one meal to a family in need for every person that participated in Fast-a-Thon,” said Aggour. They were unable to make those food donations this year, but did collect for Syrian relief aid at the event. “We’d like to try to donate to families in need again because hunger is a real problem in the community.”
The Muslim Student Association places a great importance on giving back to the community. “We don’t want to just host dinners and lectures and have it end there,” said Al-Kalby. “We want to let the good spread outside of the room.”
“We’re just always trying to help out,” said Aggour. “We can be planning one thing and then something big will happen and we’ll say, ‘Oh no! We have to do fundraising for that, too!’ Sometimes we get very ambitious.”
“We have a lot going on now and we’re definitely one of the more active student orgs,” said Al-Kalby. “We really have to pay attention to how things are done.”
The MSA will be involved in two final events this semester, one of which is today, April 16. They will have a booth with Middle Eastern food at the International Student Association’s Food Fest, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Lake House and park. Admission to the Food Fest is $5.
On April 23 and 24, Tower Inn will host MSA’s “Dine-n-Donate” event. The restaurant will be collecting specific fliers (which can be picked up at the MSA office in Student Center 342J or printed from the MSA Facebook page). For every flier collected, Tower Inn will donate 20 percent of the proceeds to MSA, to help fund next year’s events and causes.
“Now we need to prepare for the fall,” said Al-Kalby. “We did a lot this year.”
Aggour agreed. “We were very blessed.”
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