CAIRO – Departing from the culture of excessive partying, Muslim students at the University of Texas have opened the first all-Muslim fraternity, offering ‘young, self-actualized Muslim men’ a chance to be servants to their families and every aspect of their greater community.
“The primary purpose of a fraternity is to unite these men as brothers under a specific cause,” Ali Mahmoud, the President of Alpha Lambda Mu (or Alif Laam Meem) and its founder, told The Independent.
Deemed America’s first Muslim Fraternity, Alpha Lambda Mu was established in February this year at the University of Texas.
With their hard-partying image, the idea of the all-Muslim fraternity started out as a joke.
“The idea of a Muslim fraternity seemed heretical,” Mahmoud said.
Working on the idea, he realized the urgency of these groups to offer modern Muslim students a better chance to compromise their social life in order to live by the values of Islam in order to enjoy an organic college experience.
They also hope that ‘young, self-actualized Muslim men’ in the fraternity would be servants to their families and every aspect of their greater community.
“Muslims are supposed to bring benefit and prevent harm to everyone and anything, not just Muslims,” Mahmoud added.
To reach this end, the fraternity was announced based on the principles of Islam, namely mercy, compassion, justice, integrity, honesty, unity, love, and sincerity.
“We’re not looking for perfect Muslims. None of us is perfect,” the fraternity founder said.
“We would rather take a humble struggler who understands his faults and believes that he can overcome his challenges by joining the fraternity, than someone who is too blinded by arrogance to see any room for self-improvement.
“We’ll grow together, we’ll keep each other in check, and we’ll hopefully all come out as better people and better contributors to society,” he added.
Moving on the ground, the fraternity attracted some criticism for their appropriation of ‘exclusivist ideals’.
“In order for us to craft this Muslim-American identity, we’re going to need to have a number of conversations along the way,” Mahmoud said.
“It’s difficult to have this conversation when we’re constantly telling people what Islam isn’t instead of what it is due to pre-emptive attacks with hidden agendas.
“I think it’s time to calm down and have intelligent, open-minded conversations if we want to make any progress. We’re taking what’s good from the fraternity model and leaving what’s bad.”
Those ideals were hit by the latest Boston attack which put Muslims back to square one.
Yet, the Muslim fraternity was decisive on defending their right as American Muslims, blasting ideas of integrating them in the society.
“We cannot integrate or assimilate into a society that we’re already a part of.
“I personally grew up in Plano, Texas. I went to public school, I played Xbox Live all the time with my friends who weren’t Muslim, and I regrettably ate too much fast food. I’m a proud American Muslim, and I see no contradiction of those two titles.
“Islam is my moral compass that guides every aspect of my life, but it also leaves room for our cultural experiences.”
Mahmoud added that Islam was a faith that fits all ages and countries.
“One of the beautiful things about Islam is that it is a religion that is meant to fit different times and different places,” he said.
“Yes, there are core values that do not change regardless of where the religion is established, but there is room for flexibility. An exciting challenge we have as young Muslims in the United States is figuring out how Islam fits in 21st century America.
“We can only do this with a strong understanding of the religious tradition and a strong understanding of the cultural reality of our day. The synthesis of the two is indeed Islam itself, and lacking in either understanding calls for recalibration. The goal is balance.”
Though many might see Texas as unwelcoming place for the first Muslim fraternity, Mahmoud said they have been welcomed from all over the world.
“The amount of love we’ve been getting from all around the world eclipses the negativity that Muslims have received and gives us hope for a brighter future of tolerance, understanding, peace, and love for each other,” he said.
“We hope that after all is said and done, we will have a strong group of guys who will stand up for social justice, for the needy, and for their societies just as the religion calls them to do.”