There is a growing population of Muslim students at Gannon, and as the numbers increase it is important for students to familiarize themselves with each other and get to know students from different cultural backgrounds.
That is one of the goals of the Muslim Student Association. “The MSA’s main goal on campus is to promote the religion of Islam as a religion of peace on Gannon’s campus” said MSA president Abdul Rahman Alzaabi.
The group gives Muslim students opportunities to express themselves and display their beliefs on campus so that students who are not familiar with their religion can better understand and relate to their beliefs. This can help eliminate misconceptions or misunderstandings students have about Islam and Muslim students. These misunderstandings can often hold back open and friendly dialogue between Muslim students and other students on campus. Eliminating these barriers is key to strong community.
The MSA holds many events on campus, the most prominent recently being the Eid al Adha gathering in October of last year. Around 100 participants joined the group for a traditionally themed feast honoring one of the biggest religious holidays of the year. “The event was emphasizing the spirt of Eid which is a day to gather with relatives and share food” said Abdul Rahman Alzaabi. Accompanying the feast was a brief recitation of the Qur’an as well as a speech about the Muslim Student Association and its goal. They also host a yearly Q&A where students can have a chance to ask questions and better understand their Muslim peers.
The MSA hopes to affect Gannon’s campus in a positive way through its events and volunteer work in the community as well as make other students aware of the large number of Muslim students at Gannon. Last year the MSA volunteered at places like the Erie Art Museum and the Erie Mosque. They also offered weekly Quran study sessions and other opportunities to read and understand sacred texts.
For more perspective on the Muslim students here at Gannon and the impact of their events it’s worth checking out this blog by Edge Magazine Copy Editor Aaron Mook about last year’s annual Islamic Night. The event gives students a chance to walk around to different booths and speak to students about the Muslim faith and traditions as well as share a meal. Events like
This go a long way in bringing the students of Gannon together in a meaningful way.
The MSA is open to students of all faiths, as they are not just about promoting and displaying their own religious beliefs but also about open channels for discussion of faith in general and friendship between students from all different backgrounds. With such diverse demographics making up Gannon’s population of students, open dialogue and discussion is key. It allows students to connect better with their peers and develop the sense of community that is so important to Gannon’s mission.
Students are often inclined to stick to groups made up of like-minded or similar individuals whose views line up with their own but being able to interact and learn from the diversity of groups around them can be as important part of an education as any. Being able to see different viewpoints and their merits allows students to expand their horizons and become better citizens of their community and the world.
The MSA helps accomplish this but still is an organization that does not get as much coverage and publicity around campus as it probably should. With the number of Muslim students and the amount of service and community outreach performed by the MSA in a year, they deserve all the recognition they can get. There are currently 119 members signed up on EngageU. That’s a large group of students on campus with a lot to offer to their community here at Gannon and in Erie.
For those interested in exposing themselves to different religions and cultures, joining or at the very least supporting the Muslim Student Association it a great start. The kind of dialogue the MSA is creating is important in helping students from all kinds of different backgrounds to relate with and understand others who have different beliefs and worldviews. Information about the Muslim Student association can be found on their EngageU page as well as on facebook.com/GannonMSA.