Saturday, June 21, 2008

Change for All?

Kudos to Senator Obama for personally apologizing for the discrimination against two Muslim women at a rally Monday in Detroit. However, the incident has caused many minority groups to take pause, sit back and wait to see what unfolds next.

The Senator personally called and apologized to Hibba Aref and Shimaa Abdelfadeel, the two Muslim women who were prevented from sitting behind the Senator because they wear hijab (head scarf).

Hebba Aref was an officer of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) when she attended the University of Michigan in Dearborn. MSAs across the country serve Muslim students on campus and the campus community as a whole through various activities, including interfaith dialog and community service events to foster a better understanding of Islam. This year over 100 MSAs held "Peace...Not Prejudice" events to bring diverse student groups together to dispel stereotypes. Berkeley MSA, for example, had 27 student groups co-sponsor the week, including Jewish and Black student groups.

The Washinton Post published an editorial highlighting this effort by Muslim Students:

So a woman who spent her college years trying to dispel stereotypes falls victim to those same stereotypes at a rally for the first African American US Presidential Nominee by a major political party? Hmmm.

We now wait to see if Obama's message of Change We Can Believe In will manifest itself in action that includes all Americans and dispenses with the discrimination African Americans and American Muslims have become all to familiar with. In fact, I Hope and dare to believe it will.


Assalams All!

I wanted to apologies to all of my readers. When MSA Zonal Conferences happened, my life became a blur of classes, conference calls, airports and meetings. Alhamduillah, while life has slowed down a little bit, I will do my best to publish regularly.

I missed posting and insha'Allah I'm back better than ever!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Interfaith Rally to Call for an End to the War in Iraq and Torture

In the rain, we gathered, we lobbied and we raised our voices.

Friday, March 14, 2008

MSA Advice at Zonal Conferences!

Does your MSA need management advice? Meet with one of the COMPASS trainers at your zonal conference.

Trainers are professors, certified trainers, teachers, and consultants.

Visit for more information.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NY Times: Muslim Students & Inclusion

Here's the editorial I submitted to the NY Times that was rejected:

Understanding Muslims on Campus

Standing at the Gates of Georgetown, Father Godfry and I discussed the upcoming Muslim Student Association (MSA) Fast-A-Thon. In my capacity as President of the Georgetown MSA, Father Godfry and I regularly met to discuss MSA events and activities. Often we discussed the reoccurring question of religious groups on campus: what, if any, are the membership criteria?

For MSA National, inclusion is not a question of ‘if,’ rather the focus is on ‘how’ and ‘how best,’ to be inclusive. Two of our guiding principles summarize our outlook: Moderation is the compass of our journey. Tolerance is the banner of our outreach. Simply put, Muslim students are encouraged to reach out to, embrace, appreciate and include everyone who wishes to work with and serve students on campus. And lest our critics claim that this is a post-9/11 outlook, in early 2000, The MSA Link, published an article entitled “Embracing the Silent Majority,” which outlined strategies on being inclusive and the best ways to reach out to students on campus.

Even as far back as our founding, the first president of MSA National, in 1963, was a Shiite; over the years the organization has taken great strides, including having two female presidents and several female executive board members, to create a more inclusive and representative body of students across North America. In addition, MSA National’s cadres of volunteers across the US and Canada, is reflective of racial, ethnic, national, and ideological diversity.

MSA National is an inherently North American organization, founded and led initially by the best and the brightest of the Muslim world, who sought refuge here from repression and injustice in their homelands. Today it is led and supported by second and third generation American and Canadian Muslims, whose sole desire is to serve humanity and in doing so, to serve God. Programs like the Fast-A-Thon and Project Downtown, which promote interfaith understanding, while raising funds and consciousness to end hunger and homelessness in America and Canada, are more reflective of who Muslim students really are. And ultimately, Muslim Students, just like any other college students – seek to be understood for who they really are.

Asma Mirza serves as President of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) National. She is the second female President in the organization’s 45 year history. Mirza is currently an MBA Student at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and a recent graduate of Georgetown University.

Monday, March 3, 2008

History Lesson

Sitting in Econ class, I felt my heart beat faster. Discussing the economic history of India, my Indian classmates spoke about the Independence movement. As they spoke about Nehru, it was easy to see the emotions on their face. Discussing the 1950's and the caste system, the classroom quickly became embroiled in a debate.

Although I've been to Pakistan only a few times in my life, I felt myself feeling sensitive. It wasn't my personal history, but the Indian-Pakistani separation is an integral part of my family's history. Hearing the students debate colonization, I began to imagine my grandparents migrating, joining the millions who walked miles to get to Pakistan.

My parents would have been young children. A baby, my mother would have strapped to my grandmother's back in make-shift cloth sling. My toddler father probably walked hand in hand with his older brother. These were people I loved, whose blood flows through my veins.

If I felt goosebumps during a simple economic discussion, I can't imagine what other grandchildren feel when people discuss segregation, slavery, apartheid, genocide, holocaust, or other troubling periods of human history.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Get Mistified!

As most people know, I love all things MSA. But what I really love is MSAers helping MSAers.

This weekend my MSA at UMD is hosting the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament (MIST). As MIST is part of the MSA National family, I've heard alot about the tournament and worked closely with Shazia, the founder. But this is the first time I've had the opportunity to help first-hand with this amazing MSA project.

Like most MSA events, MSAers bond over their mutual excited and tired-ness. Sitting on the floor, laughing about the skits and how our feet hurt, I've already learned more about my MSA sisters in one day than I did all year long. Talking about why she started wearing hijab, or our vision for the Fast-A-Thon, our bond as organizers somehow causes us to drop our guard and talk about real issues.

One thing for sure, high school kids are very high-energy MSAers who are up for anything. While role-playing might cause college MSAers to roll their eyes, high school MSAers jump for joy and give it their all. Lets hope I make it through the weekend!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winter Break

One of my closest friends, Dania (former VP USA of MSA National) asked me if I fixed my thumb drive. After telling her the entire, dramatic story of how it broke and by some miracle my sister-in-law's cousin was able to get the data off of it, she looked at me and said, "Do you know how it broke? I read it on your blog; that's how I'm keeping up with your life."

We immediately made plans.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Remembering to Smile

Today was one of those days; those days where you wonder if its time to go to bed because you know that after tossing and turning for a few hours it'll be a new day, a new chance to make a difference and most importantly, you'll have a clean slate.

Boom. Boom. Boom. One, two, three. And then at the end of the day punch number four.

Sometimes its like I'm skating in 60 degree weather; all around me the icicles are beginning to drip and my rink is slowly reverting to a pond while the piranhas are waking up.

But whenever I find myself standing on active tectonic plates, all I can do is pray.

Its quite a hard lesson to learn, especially for an activist. You believe you can change the world; you can help society and make the world a better place. You can stay up late nights, answer every question, make plans, begin implementation - but at the end of the day you don't have control. At the end of the day I am limited; only one being is unlimited. So all we can do is our best - and pray.

For me I find comfort in the amazing MSA volunteers. Volunteers like a local MSA sister who balances her pre-med classes with her numerous MSA leadership roles or the MSA National Information Technology Task Force that gets its dream of redoing the website and is working on numerous other projects. Or the MSA National Media and Communications Task Force members who work hard to bring us all news of the amazing things happening in MSA land.

Or the MSA Alumni, who calls her friend to say, "Don't forget what you used to have on your voicemail - Remember to smile!"


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Flash Drive Users Beware

Today I spent the day on my phone, in stores and online trying to fix my MSA / MBA thumb drive. Like many people, I keep my life on a small piece of metal smaller than my index finger. From MSA documents, to my notes from class and my personal reflections; everything from the past three years. Alhamduillah, I had backed it up two months ago, but a lot as happened since November.

According to Best Buy: $400-$500 to recover the memory.

Lets hope the next person I ask has a better idea :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Standing at the MSA National booth at RIS, an old friend and former MSA National officer Sr. Fadwa softly touched my elbow and introduced me to a brother from CAIR-Can.

As I spoke to the brother about organizational messages and his perspective on how to best articulate our message to the larger community, I noticed another volunteer intently listening to our conversation.

As I introduced myself to Br. Ghaleb from the Concordia MSA, he began to tell me his MSA story. We all have them; stories about how we came to be at the school we're at, how we love or don't love our MSA, and stories about our experiences that make us who we are today. Like Congressman Ellison says, we as Muslims need to tell our story. This is one of my favorite parts of my job - understanding other people's stories and learning what I can do to make their campus experience even better.

Br. Ghaleb left his family overseas and first came to Minnesota. When he landed at the airport, MSA members picked him up, helped him get settled, and became his home away from home as for the first time he celebrated Ramadan and Eid away from his family. My eyes nearly teared up as he described this story and told me how his mother received a translation of the Qur’an in 1975 from MSA National, when the organization established one of if not the first Muslim printing presses in America. It is that passion and love for MSA that he carries with him today at Concordia.

As I left RIS, I said a small prayer for Br. Ghaleb and his family; his story was a bigger gift than he may ever know.