Muslim students unite to form Muslim Student Association


Ridwan Oyebamiji

Seniors Maryam Oyebamiji, Kinza Awais and junior Mariam Mirza introduce themselves to members at the first Muslim Student Association meeting. Meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. “I felt like their needed to be a safe haven for a lot muslims because their facing a lot of backlash especially in this day and age,” Awais said. “A lot of schools have it, and I felt like West needed to have one because we have a big Muslim student population.”

Due to the demand for a Muslim Student Association (MSA) from Muslim members of the student body, seniors Areeba Naseer, Sara Imdad and Farhan Hassan appealed to their needs by creating the club. Naseer hopes to break down the false interpretations of Islam.

“The benefits of joining the MSA are to have an open socialization of different religions and cultures just coming together to have a circle of commonalities or discrepancies,” Naseer said. “We just want students to have an open and comfortable environment to people who are able to share their beliefs without feeling like their being judged.”

Senior Kinza Awais wants to use the meetings to educate students about crises related to Islam around the world.

“We’re going to have speakers from different organizations to come and speak to everyone and spread awareness about things that are really going on in the world, like Syria and Burma,” Awais said. “People have no idea what’s going on and what Muslims have to deal with across the world.”

Often times, the public’s perception of Muslims is based on the media’s beliefs, which tend to cover false notions.

“I think a lot of people’s perceptions of Muslims is what they see in the media and often, it’s only negative things that are portrayed,” Hassan said. “Like people who claim the name of Islam and commit acts of terrorism, that’s what people see in the news because they don’t really see anything about Islam being a religion of peace or the actual morals that Islam teaches.”

Although the name may imply that it is a club purely for students who are Muslim, non-muslims are welcomed to attend.

“I’ve seen firsthand what people who look just like me but just practice a different religion go through because of their race. All of these are interrelated, these systems of oppression,” Venkatachalam said. “I want to see what I can do to help.”

Social studies teacher Kristen Collins agreed to sponsor the organization after being approached by Hassan.

“I think that it’s important for all of our kids at West to have the opportunity to belong to a club or organization that matches their interests,” Collins said. “I wasn’t currently sponsoring a club, so when Farhan asked me if I’d be interested to sponsor the Muslim Student Association, I agreed.”

Furthermore, with the knowledge of many Islamic traditions, Collins believed she would be able to understand more about religions than the average teacher.

“I have always found religions and their cultures intriguing. I’m a World History teacher, so I think this comes naturally to me,” Collins said. “Plus, I minored in Middle Eastern Studies, so the Islamic faith and its culture have been a focus of my academic studies for a really long time.”

Naseer sees the value in having a sponsor that has the awareness of misconceptions of Islam.

“She understands religions and doesn’t have any negative biases and can put her opinion in without causing an issue,” Naseer said. “She understands Islam and other religions and we just want to have a [sponsor] that understands religions that has a lot of misconceptions to it and I think Ms. Collins really understands that.”

Collins believes the establishment of this club can lead to collaborations with other religion-based clubs to clear misconceptions about their religions as well.

“In speaking with some of the leaders, they were hoping to come together with other religious-based non-school sponsored clubs to enhance dialogue between our different religious groups in order to combat misunderstandings that many of us have about each others’ faiths,” Collins said.