TEXAS – The University of Texas Muslim and non-Muslim students are coming together in several events hosted by the Muslim Student Association, as a part of its outreach efforts to build bridges and dispel myths.
“A few of our goals are to give Muslim students that are here a place where they can pray together, where they can just hang out, spend time with each other, so they can get familiar with the Muslim community in Knoxville and grow spiritually,” Abdalla Husain, junior in linguistics and executive board member of the Muslim Student Alliance (MSA), told UT Daily Beacon on Thursday, September 14.
“We also try to collaborate with other groups on campus and try to get to know other groups.”
Amany Alshibli, senior in chemical engineering and vice president of MSA, said she was pleased with the increase in visibility MSA has achieved through their events.
“I was really happy that last year we had interfaith events, or discussion panels, where we really were just trying to engage in a conversation,” Alshibli said. “And we find that there are a lot of people that are really, really interested in knowing … About our experiences, about our perspectives. I really appreciate that people are giving us a voice.”
At such a difficult time for Muslims in America, Alshibli said their members have noticed more support from the campus community.
“I know last year was rickety because of the election, but I know there were a lot of groups that anonymously donated donuts to us for finals. SGA met with us individually to hear about how they could best support us,” Alshibli said.
“I think the efforts of people reaching out to support us have far exceeded those that have been causing misunderstandings.”
Husain also said that, despite the fact that negative feedback is prominent, the majority of the campus community supports their organization.
“It seems that with every person that attacks us, attacks Muslims on campus, there seem to be 10 or 20 people supporting us,” Husain said. “The negatives don’t outweigh the positives, in terms of support.”
During Hurricane Harvey, The Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) opened up four of their properties as 24-hour shelters. They also helped with fundraising efforts for the Houston area. Using this as an example, Husain said some of the misconceptions of Muslims begin with the lack of coverage of the positive work Muslims do.
They also helped with fundraising efforts for the Houston area. Using this as an example, Husain said some of the misconceptions of Muslims begin with the lack of coverage of the positive work Muslims do.
“You don’t see a lot of news coverage of that (volunteer work) … You see a lot of people saying Muslims are trying to make little Muslim-only communities and teach their extremism and creeping Sharia,” Husain said.
“When in fact, the Muslims that are out there serving the community and helping the community – they’re not getting shown.”
Understanding begins when others realize Islam is like any other religion and that Muslims are normal people, Husain and Alshibli added.
“Islam is just like any religion. It takes a lot to learn about it, but I think knowing a Muslim personally can change that because then you realize that,” Alshibli said.
“You know, I’m a college student. I stay up way too late because I procrastinate on my work. I obviously care and love about my family and my friends … I have aspirations in my professional life. All of those things are things you don’t always hear in the media.”