When the MSA first came to Towson University 15 years ago, there was just about six Muslims in the entire school population at Towson University. Today, almost 200 Muslim students join the MSA every Friday afternoon for prayer, MSA Advisor Sana Kirmani says.
Although the sound of the Muslim Student Association may come off as just a religious, excluded organization on campus- all the events and meetings are open to everyone.
The weekly Friday meetings, held from about 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m., are not just for group members, anyone can can join in to hear about upcoming events or to just talk to a member about religion or culture, or just to experience something different.
Current members mostly heard about the MSA through other friends. Aayesha Aijaz, head of community outreach for MSA, says she joined when she started helping her good friend, Salsabeel who was already very active in the chapter.
“I was just pulled into the group because of my accessibility,” Aayesha says. “I helped with everything until I started a subgroup within MSA named ‘Feeding Our Neighbors’ which feeds the homeless in Baltimore city.”
The MSA also stays involved with the Muslim community on campus, with its events and weekly prayers. Along with the MSA, there are many other “ethnic” groups on campus whose main goals are to bring people from the same background together.
“Organizations such as those (Black Student Union, Latin American Student Organization, and MSA) allow people of various backgrounds to find common ground and a larger sense of community at a predominantly white institution,” Ashley Yusuff, member of the Sisterhood, BSU and National Council of Negro Women says. “(These students) can then relate to ethnically with the same struggles, hardships and stereotypes.”
The MSA has many goals, including spreading awareness about Islam and their organization. Although, they have many members, the Towson chapter of MSA hopes to make its name more known on campus and to bring together more students.
“There are so many students that come to the prayer but most of them do leave after instead of staying for the meeting,” Hafiz Aina, Vice President of the MSA says. Students often come to pray with the MSA because there is prayer that is required in the Islamic faith that has to be done five times every day.
The current makeshift prayer room in the Union is one of the best places for Muslim students to pray throughout the day while they are on campus, Aijaz says.
“It’s really hard to pray in between classes because you don’t want to walk back all the way to the Union just to pray and go back to class,” Aayesha says. “Either you come to the union or you have to go to your dorm room if you have one, it just has to be a quiet place.”
“There is no mosque near the campus,” MSA Advisor, Sana Kirmani says. “This leaves students to pray in stair ways or even in between the book stacks in the library. I don’t want to build a mosque, I just want there to be a nice place to pray on campus for students.”
Many other religious student organizations use the prayer room as well.
In the end, it is about accommodating for the students who need it. Whether it is because of their religion, ethnicity or even disability, students on campus today have more access to different unions, organizations, and opportunities for people just like them, than students had 15 years ago.
I encourage my peers to broaden their world views, with today’s current events it has become more important than ever to learn more about the religion of Islam.