By Savannah Lewis
Cleveland State University offers a variety of organizations to support different cultures and religions that make up the community on campus. One of these groups that has over 100 active members is called the Muslim Student Association (MSA), which is an organization that helps to spread awareness of the Islamic religion. Deena Ali, president of MSA, stated that the organization is for everyone who is interested in understanding their religion, as well as a place of unity for the Muslim community on campus.
“It’s not just for Muslims, but it is a comfort zone for Muslims where we gain knowledge together,” Ali said.
The group hosts different events for students to participate in to make a difference on campus, not only for people who practice the religion, but for individuals who might be interested in learning about a culture that is not their own. An example of one of the events they host is called Deen and Dine. MSA holds this event periodically throughout the semester, the next one being on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m.
“Deen and Dine is an event where we bring in a scholar of Islam, and he speaks about a topic regarding it. Anyone is welcome to participate and eat, but the main goal is for people to gain knowledge and to get the misconceptions and stereotypes out of their minds,” said Eman Ewais, vice president of MSA.
The most important part of the organization besides creating a safe zone for the Muslim community is to help others understand the facts and fallacies regarding their religion.
“I want people to realize we are normal people.” Ali discussed. “It’s a misconception that people are forced to wear a hijab and things like that. We are here to say, ‘no, we are normal people, we aren’t forced to wear this.’”
This organization has the role of bringing together all students who are interested in learning about Islam as well as helping students who may not be accustomed to Cleveland State’s culture become acclimated when they start attending the university.
“Having an organization like this that brings us all together makes us feel better and welcomes international students who aren’t familiar with the American culture and things on campus,” Ewais explained.
Other than Deen and Dine, MSA organizes one or two large events each semester that celebrates the religion and culture of Islam. For the next event, the organization is hosting speakers from Michigan to speak about their religion and help the attendees learn new information about their religion.
Ali stated that events like these are helpful for everyone on campus to feel comfortable with the different cultures surrounding them.
She explained that learning about the culture can help others, “be more aware of your peers in class and help people have a better understanding of what we are.”
Ali and Ewais hope that both Muslim and non-Muslim students can feel comfortable interacting with the organization. They said that there is always something new to learn, and it is a process for everyone involved. They also stated that if anyone has questions regarding their religion, that they are more than happy to help answer them and work on destigmatizing the culture.
“If you want to learn about Muslims, come up and ask us questions,” Ewais said.