Niagara University’s Muslim Student Alliance (MSA) held an interest meeting on Feb. 7, 2017, one of the steps the group hopes will lead to an increase in awareness for the club. Founded in 2015 and comprised of 20 members, the MSA aims to educate the campus community about Islam and Islamic culture, allowing for an open and welcoming assemblage of interested students.
“MSA’s goal is to educate students on the basics about Islam,” MSA Student President Cindy Kaptan said. “We want to have an environment where all students are together in a cohesive group and come together in a peaceful way. With the current issues around the world, I think it’s really important for our club to have this motto.”
The MSA was represented at an on-campus rally by member Sevval Aydin on Feb 2., which was meant to celebrate and bring together the international community, coming after a controversial executive order signed by President Trump which halted immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations; Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya.
“As a club, we don’t really associate too much with political news,” Kaptan said. “We don’t try and associate with controversial topics either. We don’t want our club associated with one idea. That doesn’t broaden the types of people you want in your club.”
In the past, the MSA has organized Islam-themed movie nights, with discussions of films following the viewings, and the group plans to continue this tradition. They also celebrated Ashura, a Muslim holiday honoring the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. This semester they hope to do a presentation on Ramada, a month of fasting beginning this year on May 26 and ending June 25 celebrating the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. They also plan on hosting a night dedicated to Henna, a paste used to decorate women’s hands with decorative designs, which originate in the subcontinent of India.
“Last semester we focused on trying to get our club together, spread the word, and fundraise,” Kaptan said. “This year we’re planning on using our fundraising money to implement trips.” The group plans on sending its members to New York City in the near future and visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which features an exhibit on Islamic Art, and a mosque in the city.
The club hopes that its membership and impact will continue to rise, and invites students from all cultures to take part in events and activities. Last semester, students in courses related to Islam and the Middle East took part in MSA run presentations. Dr. Mustafa Gökçek, a history professor specializing in the Middle East and Central Asia, serves as faculty advisor for the MSA.
“As we’re having fun events, we also want people to gain some sort of knowledge about Islam,” Kaptan said. “We’ve been advertising so much on Facebook now, and also word of mouth is what we have to do to get the word out.”
Additional information can be found at Niagara’s Muslim Student Alliance Facebook page