Lewis & Clark’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) has started up again after a long hiatus.
Aisha Kheir ’20, the President of MSA, explained the reasoning behind restarting the organization.
“Last year’s tragic event in New Zealand with the shooting of two different mosques, I think that made people realize how there is this really hateful rhetoric that is causing people to die,” Kheir said. “So having MSA, working against prejudice and building understanding is very important.”
At this point in the year, MSA has procured funding and is brainstorming event ideas, while currently focusing on providing a safe space for minority students on campus.
Yasmin Kemer ’22, the MSA treasurer, addressed the perception of Muslim students on LC’s campus.
“I can definitely sense that because of where a lot of students are coming from, being around Muslims, but especially when they are not Arab Muslims, is kind of a culture shock, and they don’t know how to respond to that,” Kemer said.
Kheir emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion in a liberal arts school.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a school that’s very secular and not religious,” Kheir said. “But at the same time, even if it is a secular or non-religious school, I think it’s still important to value different perspectives and I think that’s what a liberal arts education does. Even in class, we were learning about different religions and different philosophies, and professors, even students, they always say, ‘How can we look at this from the other side?’ And I think actually having different religions and different races helps the secular environment and helps the liberal arts.”
Kheir also emphasized the diversity within MSA.
“Some people in the mainstream culture have this misconception that all Muslims are from one country or one region,” Kheir said. “This is not true, because Muslims are one of the most diverse religious groups.”
Kemer described the ways in which the Office of Spiritual Life has worked to support Muslim students at LC.
“They’re really helpful,” Kemer said. “During Ramadan they will send us emails saying, ‘If you want to take your finals at a different time you can.’ They’re definitely aware and they’re willing to reach out and make sure that our needs are accommodated.”
Restarting the organization has been a great way of gathering the Muslim community at LC.
“It’s been so amazing to meet different Muslim students on campus, and not only Muslim students but people who don’t have religions or are from different religions,” Kheir said. “I just want to support different people. And that’s just been very fun for us because sometimes I feel like without a club or without a center students can kind of be lost. The systems are just coming together for one purpose, and getting to know each other and just connecting and building community and networking has been very beneficial for us among other students.”