Colorado State Muslim Student Association finds community and fights prejudice

CSU Muslim students are coming together to battle misperceptions and prejudice with dialogue and hummus.

The university’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) has given its members a support system and become a community where they are safe to connect with each other and work together to confront negative assumptions about their faith that exist in the larger community.

Communication and education are necessary to eliminate the fear and prejudice directed toward Islam and, according to MSA President Jared Nasr Woodrow, the MSA serves as a “central lynchpin for communications” between CSU Muslims, the student body and the rest of the Fort Collins community.

“An MSA on a college campus is one small piece of the puzzle to create a better vision of Muslims throughout the world,” Woodrow said. “If we allow incorrect presumptions to flourish, extremism on both sides will never die down.”

Woodrow has seen a new confidence emerge in members of MSA as they engage with each other and work together to create events where the rest of CSU and Fort Collins can learn about Islam.

“Many of our members have gained the ability to speak to non-Muslims in a personable way, which is important since the cycle of violence and hatred will only be perpetuated by ignorance,” Woodrow said.

The organization has hosted events open to the public that range from informational lectures about the religion of Islam to discussions about headscarves. The group has hosted potluck dinners and led interfaith discussions with members of local churches and Jewish student organizations.

“Our goal is and always has been to help others understand Islam in a true light,” Woodrow said.

Members explore their religion together and discuss how to present their faith to the rest of the community and, according to MSA secretary Samar Pirzada, CSU is an ideal place to do this because the college campus is already a learning environment.

MSA member Mahmoud Elkady said he appreciates having the opportunity to display a better message of Islam and repair the negative image people have of Islam that is propagated in the news. While preparing to teach others about his religion, Elkady said he enjoyed learning more about his faith.

“I originally signed up as a volunteer wanting to help out with events in any way I could and I learned more about my faith in the process,” Elkady said.

And he’s not alone.

“We’re already on campus to go to school and MSA is a great way to get together to learn and celebrate our culture,” Pirzada said. “We’ve created a team; a sisterhood, a brotherhood and we welcome anyone who wants to come learn with us.”