Muslim Students Find Safe Space on Campus

Photo Credit/ MSA
Miriam Bouchekouk is the secretary of MSA, who encourages the muslim community on campus.

Yaasmeen Piper


The Muslim Student Association shared parts of their culture last week in honor is Islamic awareness week.  

The goal of the week and their club is to raise positive awareness of Islam and let Muslim students on campus know they are not alone.  

“[We want to] bring solidarity to Muslims,”  said Sophia Shaikh, president of the Muslim Student Association or MSA.“I just feel like, especially on this campus, Muslims are a minority. It’s really hard to find [other] Muslims. Unfortunately, there are a lot of stereotypes that people associate with us.” 

With their Islamic awareness week, MSA is hoping to shatter some of those stereotypes. The week started off with hijab day on April 8. Shaikh and Ami Sanou, vice president of MSA, handed out hijabs in the Scitech lobby. The event hoped to imitate what it is like to be a Muslim woman, even if it’s just for the day. 

“I feel like the hijab day could really help refine how you think because you don’t really understand what it’s like to be a Muslim woman unless you’ve actually been in that place,” Sanou said. “Wearing the hijab, you’re just trying to go about your day and mind your business and there are people who will dislike you just because of how you look.” 

Cassandra Bediako, a junior who participated in hijab day, said wearing the hijab helped her understanding of Muslim women more.  

“I have the utmost respect for them,” she said. “To walk around wearing the hijab is strength and confidence.”  

According to Sanou, most of MSA’s meetings surround upcoming events such as Islamic awareness week. However, there are times where the group just sit around and vent to people with similar backgrounds. 

Growing up in Philly, Sanou was used to minorities being the majority in her neighborhood, After coming to ESU, she had a bit of a culture shock.  

“I didn’t see as many black students as I am used to, I haven’t seen as many Islamic students as I am used to,” she said. “My first couple of years here I was really uncomfortable, and I also wasn’t heavily involved in clubs.” 

After joined the Black Student Union or BSU, the Feminist Alliance club, and MSA, Sanou said she found a home.  

“I am many different things,” she said. “I come from an Islamic family, I am a black woman, I am a woman. There are many parts of me that make me who I am, and I feel comfortable now knowing that I have a home.” 

Shaikh was raised in a predominantly white area, so being a minority on campus wasn’t anything new. She started wearing her hijab six years ago when she started high school. When she first started wearing her hijab, people started treating her differently, giving her curious looks whenever she was in public. The looks never stopped, she said, but she got accustomed to it.  

Her safe haven? Her local mosque where she mingled with other Muslims or those of a similar religion.  

Joining MSA was already in the back of her mind before she started her first semester at ESU. She wanted that same comfortability she had at her mosque.  

Now as the club’s president, Shaikh works as a guide for people joining MSA or interested in becoming Muslim.   

“You don’t have to be a Muslim to join MSA,” she said. “Even in previous years, we have seen so many other students from so many other backgrounds that are just so interested in learning what our religion is about.” 

MSA has two main events each year: Islamic awareness week and their Eid Dinner. To celebrate the end of Ramadan, the club holds a dinner featuring an abundance of Middle Eastern dishes and a guest speaker to talk about the importance of Eid to the Muslim community. According to Sanou, last year they had about 150 participants at the dinner which included student, staff, faculty and other people from the community. 

Shaikh and Sanou hope that MSA’a number continue to grow in the years that come.  

“If you are interested in getting to know what we are about I am all for it,” Sanou said. “I want to see your face.” 

The Muslim Student Alliance meets every other Thursday at 2 p.m. in Stroud 203. You can follow them on Instagram @esu.msa  

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