In a diverse campus with more than 500 student organizations, religious groups representing Muslims, Christians and Jews enjoy unity, coexistence, and better understanding in the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Kernel reported.
“Being involved in the Muslim Student Association (MSA) gave me the perspective to understand how Islam is wholly an individual relationship between the Muslim and God, and that this relationship has very real implications in the community in which you live,” said Hina Iqbal, current Halaqa Chair on Muslim Student Association (MSA) board.
The senior neuroscience major continued that she “had the opportunity in my time as an MSA student to learn and grow, inspired by a faith I hold very close to my heart.”
Regardless of the number of students in each organization, campus religious groups provide an opportunity for fellowships and connection between students of similar religious beliefs.
Ordinarily, more than 15 of the 23 religious organizations are demonstrative of mainstream Christian religions, however, there are student organizations that represent other religious groups including Muslims.
They offer monthly general body meetings and halaqas, social events and Islamic Awareness Week. “MSA ultimately strives to be a space to bolster individual strength through self-education and involvement and, in doing this, share this strength with the people around us,” Iqbal said.
According to Iqbal, “Halaqa translates to a gathering to talk and learn more about Islam and the Qur’an. During these gatherings, students explore Islam’s encouragement of community service and engagement, the purpose of intentional goal setting for the year ahead and what a relationship with the Qur’an looks like.”
MSA was founded at the university in 1971 with 30 to 40 active committee members and more students who attend its sponsored events.
The association serves as a space of belonging for Muslim students, encouraging self-exploration and self-development.
Moments like the unity events organized by these religious organizations on campus help to eliminate hate against religious groups on campus and attempt to foster unity between students of various backgrounds.
Iqbal believes that “recognizing our similarities, not our differences, is what makes a difference.”
“Remembering is an active process, and so we need to more actively and intentionally remember, on individual levels, as well as organizational levels, that we’re more alike than we’re different. And that those uncomfortable spaces that scare you at first suddenly aren’t as discomforting once you’re there.”
The Muslims student leader said she believes that “religious identities may differentiate students from others, causing each to flock to their own communities, many of which will be subjected to unjust stereotyping. This is the result of ignorance. The positive of that? Ignorance can help you grow.”
“Take ignorance as a positive opportunity to learn and lean into discomfort. Attend events of faith communities you don’t belong to if that’s something you can do or ask about a friend’s experience if they did go to an MSA or other community events. Use your time in undergrad to surround yourself with people who will bring you out to events you otherwise wouldn’t have gone to,” Iqbal concluded.
Muslims make up 1% of America’s 322 million population, according to the Pew Research center.
A recent Pew research found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.
It showed that US Muslims generally express a strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in modern society.
Earlier this month, about 75 students attended the ‘Muslim Creatives Collect’ event which was hosted on April 1 by the Muslim Students’ Association at the University of Michigan.
Muslim students in New Jersey Seton Hall University also hosted Islamic Awareness Week last month to foster interfaith unity and encourage the university’s community to come together.