Edited by Naijla Faizi, Muslim Life Director in the Office of the Chaplain
Throughout the week of March 19th to the 23rd, the Muslim Students Association hosted events such as inviting guest speaker Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, #AskaMuslim, Shorty’s Trivia: Islam Edition, and other events to spread awareness about Islam in the Wake Forest community.
HC: What is MSA? How did it get started?
Namak: The Muslim Students Association (MSA) is an organization that was started by Mustafa Abdullah in 2008. Dr. Darlene May, Teaching Professor in Arabic, has served as the faculty advisor for the organization since its founding. The Wake Forest Muslim Student Association fosters a safe and inclusive space for Muslims on campus, promotes a sense of belonging by serving the Wake Forest and Winston-Salem communities, and provides opportunities for intellectual engagement with Islam.
HC: What are your goals for MSA?
Namak: The MSA’s goal is first and foremost to provide opportunities for Muslim students to build relationships with one another. Additionally, we seek to represent the interests of Muslim students on campus and host a variety of educational events. Our annual Islam Awareness Week, is a large scale effort to provide the Wake Forest community with events to engage Muslims from diverse backgrounds and learn about Islam. Our presence and the events we host are particularly important on Wake’s campus given the Islamophobia, an irrational fear of Islam and those who appear to be Muslim, that we’ve historically experienced. We are pushing back against Islamophobia and ensuring our narratives as young Muslims are heard. It is our conviction that a visible and vibrant Muslim community is necessary for cultivating the inclusive campus culture to which Wake Forest aspires.
HC: How was the planning like for “Islam Awareness Week”? Any challenges?
Namak: Planning an entire week packed with events is definitely daunting! I would say the biggest challenge for Islam Awareness Week was getting the word out to students and the broader Wake Forest community. It is difficult to motivate students who are already busy and may not be personally invested in these issues to actually take advantage of the opportunity to perhaps openly speak with a Muslim for the first time about the complex ways in which they identify themselves and practice Islam. To overcome this challenge, we reached out to numerous faculty members who generously offered extra credit for their students to attend and reflect on our events. This year, I am extremely pleased to say that we engaged with over 200 participants over the course of the week! I would like to note that Islam Awareness Week would neither be possible nor as successful this year without the help of our Muslim Life Director, Naijla Faizi, and the other members of our executive team: Haris Shehzad, Maaheen Hasnain, and Mohammad Malik. No matter what challenges we may face, the support we get from each other and our allies at Wake constantly give us the ability to persevere and push forward.