Underrepresented group finally recognized

By Marlene Rivas, Staff Writer

The Muslim Student Association wishes to create unity and supporting of one another among students, work toward improving the community and dispelling any negative stigma involved with Muslims. They meet on Mondays at 2:10 p.m. in AA-137.

The club emphasizes diversity, the unity of cultures and tries to inform others about religions and cultures. Members do not necessarily need to be Muslim and everyone is welcome. It helps the community and students to learn things firsthand, not from the media, club President Reem Ali said.

The club has made appearances at Club Rush and Fall Festival and have sold incense, oils and food. This participation allowed for the club to spread the word and try to get more members. MSA is taking steps to allow for students who are not in the club to also learn and be given an answer for anything they are unsure of regarding the Muslim religion.

A table was set up near the Library and Learning Resource Center during Club Awareness Day with the members of the club leading an interactive game. Students had to answer questions about Islamic religions and, if answered correctly, there were gift cards given out as prizes. Those who did not answer correctly, but took the time to participate, were given candy. Hopefully they were able to learn even if they did not answer the questions correctly, MSA Secretary Aiman Zakaria said.

“We encourage everyone to come learn about religions and culture and learn not to discriminate against one another,” Ali said. According to her, MSA can help to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Books, such as “Answers to Non Muslims Common Questions About Islam,” by Dr. Zakir Naik, are brought to every meeting so that anyone’s questions can be correctly and efficiently answered, Zakaria said.

The club is also a chance for Muslim students to express their religion. Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and with school that can get hard, Ali said. MSA gives time for this and it reminds members to be comfortable with each other, Ali said.

“The media’s propaganda show our religion as violence, holy war or terrorism, but people should not generalize,” Zakaria said.

Zakaria shared the bewildering experience of being the subject of a blatant act of Muslim phobia regarding his routine praying. Zakaria, who also takes classes at Diablo Valley College, overheard another student in the background saying to report suspicious activity, in reference to his praying.

Although he feels that Contra Costa College is more accepting of diversity, there are still those who hold many misconceptions about other cultures and religions.

Along with the discomfort of others’ comments it is also difficult to find a prayer space that is quiet and will not interrupt any classes or student activities. It would be much easier to have a specific prayer area for any students, preferably something better than trying to find an empty classroom that can be flooded with students mid-prayer.

Achieving such an area where they would not bother anyone is a future goal for the MSA, Zakaria said. Apart from being an eye-opening learning experience, joining clubs like MSA can help in other ways, too. Involvement in clubs looks good when applying to schools, especially UCs, Ali said. However, the problem is that some people want to come and go and not be involved, she said.

The club was in jeopardy of no longer existing due to having missed two ICC meetings. Groups have members fade out toward the end of the semester. It happens with everyone, CCC Inter-Club Council  President Safi Ward-Davis said. The ASU collects a semester report which requires clubs to list their accomplishments and plans for next year. This allows for the ASU to help groups and to make sure they stay on track.

“We will be doing everything to make sure they stay active,” Ward-Davis said.

Current members of the club also wish to keep the club going, whether they are on campus or not. Ali, who will be transferring to UC Berkeley in the fall, wants to come back to help with events and teaching students.

The MSA has many plans for what their club will be doing in the fall semester in hopes of making the club grow bigger, Zakaria said. They plan to help the community that resides off campus by doing things like feeding the homeless in Berkeley, Ali said.