By Katie Davern
Earlier this semester, freshman Hina Ahmed decided to start a club called the Muslim Students Association. The club, which is a chapter of a national organization, is one of several recent efforts by Muslims to practice their faith on campus.
“The main reason why it was started was probably because it is a Catholic school, so Muslims don’t usually feel that comfortable going to a Catholic school and being on a Catholic campus,” Ahmed said. “It would just provide like some sort of community to all the Muslims that are here.”
Ahmed, who also went to a Catholic high school, said there are certain difficulties for Muslims at Catholic schools.
“I think it’s harder, in some aspects, to be at a place where most of the community’s views are a little bit different than yours, so you just have to know how to stand for yourself,” she said.
Ahmed and sophomore Aneeqa Kahn, who is an officer of the club, said they hope that it will spread understanding of their religion.
“The point is to introduce you to the religion, and just be united and make new friends… We’re not here to promote the religion or anything, we’re just here to work as a student body and show you guys what Islam is really about and not what’s stereotypically perceived,” Kahn said. She envisions the club doing “fun activities, doing stuff together, dinners, bowling, stuff like that.”
Ahmed agreed that one of the main things the club can offer is clarification of Muslim stereotypes.
“Especially in this day and age when everything is under a microscope, especially for Muslims, so it’s just like trying to get away from that stereotypical mindset. Because it’s not what Islam is about,” she commented.
Ahmed said that the club could also help promote awareness of UD among the Muslim community. “[It could] make it comfortable for those people who want to come here. Because I have friends at my mosque who are like, ‘Oh, it’s a Catholic school’… it’s a completely different religion so people are afraid to come, so it’ll promote [UD] more,” she explained.
Ahmed said that she is asking Dr. Marcy Brown Marsden, interim dean of Constantin College, to come speak about UD at a career and education fair for women at her mosque.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to go to Catholic school,” Kahn agreed.
Ahmed and Kahn, however, said they have had difficulties attracting members to the club.
“I have a lot of Catholic friends here, and when I talked to them about this club they were like, ‘Oh no, we’re not going to join, we’re Catholic.’ But I was like, well that’s not the point of it.
“The point is we want to invite everyone, it’s open to all faiths. It’s not just a Muslim body, we want it to embody all cultures and all religions,” Kahn said.
According to Ahmed and Kahn, very few people have shown up to the meetings they have had.
Before the semester ends, their main goal is to get people interested in joining the club.
“Right now we just want to get enough people that next year we can establish ourselves officially,” Ahmed explained. “[But] if in the next couple of weeks if there’s not a lot of interest, then maybe we’ll join up with [the chapter] at UT-Arlington.”
They said they hope that the opening of the Muslim prayer room — another recent initiative by Muslim students at UD — might help get the club going. Though the prayer room is being set up independently of the club, through the Office of International Student Services, they said it will be a great resource for them.
“It might attract more attention, just because we’ll have something set in stone … [and] we can advertise in there, and that’d be a big help,” Kahn noted.
According to Ahmed, the prayer room will be open in Catherine Hall in the next week or two. It will be open to everyone, but students will have to go to the International Student Services office to get their student identity cards programmed to access the room.
Ahmed and Kahn said they are glad they will have a designated space to pray.
“That gets tough sometimes if we want to be a whole body, like we want to be able to pray in one room, like you guys have the chapel and stuff, so it’s just nice,” Kahn said.