Muslim Student Associations (MSAs) are often formed to raise awareness and understand Islam on college campuses. They are also meant to create safe havens for Muslim students and to create a sense of community among Muslim students in largely non-Muslim colleges. However, many MSAs often deter Muslims from joining due to their toxic environments. Whether or not it is intentional, here are some ways MSAs may actually discourage Muslim students from joining and how they can be prevented in order to form a safe, inclusive space for all Muslim students to join.
There’s nothing wrong with having a group of friends that you’re close to at MSA. However, it is not okay to shut out newcomers or to disassociate yourselves with them just because your groups are pre-established. It’s not okay to cause divisions because of personal ties or force newcomers to align with groups in MSA.
MSA is supposed to be a safe space where Muslim students can unwind. It is hard to achieve that when there is social tension already present within the group.
One of the most important things about raising awareness about Islam is that there is not only one narrative of a Muslim. There are more than 1.3 billion Muslims in the world! Every Muslim has regional and cultural influences when it comes to their Islam. You have no say in an individual’s connection with Allah.
3. Racial Discrimination
And no, this does not refer an MSA being predominantly a certain ethnicity. That being said, an MSA, or any place for that matter, is not a place for you to freely aggregate other Muslims of different cultures or isolate Muslims who aren’t a part of your culture. MSA is supposed to be a place where people can come together on the basis of Islam. How can an MSA uphold that if they shun others, especially on the basis of ethnicity/race?
4. Personal Life
MSA is not a place for you to tell on your cousins for having a boyfriend. It is not a place for you to find out your brother smokes with his friends and use it as blackmail. No one should fear going to a safe space for Muslims because their personal lives are on the line.
In addition, you may not know how severe the consequences are if their personal lives are revealed to their parents and any other family members or acquaintances. Their reasons for their actions or whether or not it is halal is none of your business.
Judgment should not be present in MSAs at all, but when there is, women and non-binary Muslims are all too often subjected to it. Whether it’s the way they put on a hijab (if they wear one at all), how tight or revealing their clothes are, or who they involve themselves with outside of MSA, it is not your place to validate or criticize their Islam. You should be focusing on yours. In a society where Muslim women and non-binary individuals are constantly criticized and have their lives steered for them, MSAs should not be just another place where they are silenced because of arbitrary details. Rather, they should be the complete opposite.