Spotlight: Muslim Students’ Association

One of the biggest issues currently facing the U.S. is the unemployment rate hovering just under 10 percent. Although the extreme difficulty in finding a job should not be understated, sometimes our problems should be looked at with perspective.

In Pakistan, flooding that started in July has decimated the nation’s infrastructure and affected almost 21 million people. The country is facing a national crisis, with a food shortage and a growth in waterborne diseases. The Muslim Students’ Association has taken matters into their own hands with Publicity Chair and senior Saleha Vandal coordinating a fundraising effort this past week.

Where is the money that you guys are raising going?

Well we’re donating to two different charities. One is Islamic Relief USA and the other is UNICEF.

What are the organizations actually doing with the money in Pakistan?

Basically all of the organizations that are doing anything [in Pakistan] are doing the basics. They’re building shelters, providing a place for people to sleep, giving clean water, water pumps. Diarrhea is an issue so these organizations are providing salt-water tablets. They are also providing food. It’s really the basics, basically what you need after a flood situation.

Will the fundraising continue throughout the year?

We are planning for it to do so. We have a benefit dinner that will take place on Sept. 16. Before the benefit dinner we will probably be fundraising the week before it. I propose that monthly or bi-monthly we will have a fundraiser. The damage that was caused by the floods was pretty intense. It’s damaged the economy, it’s messed up the infrastructure and it’s hurt millions and millions of people. It’s not something that is going away in a few months. It will take years and years of work.

What are some of MSA’s larger goals this semester?

We set a goal to work with two charities a semester. We’re trying to increase our charity work. We’re going to have our basic events, Ramadan Dinner and Islam Awareness Week. We’re working on increasing the number of people who come to Islam Awareness Week. Our whole thing is really to get people to understand what Islam is all about and clarify what’s out there. That’s one of our constant goals, to clarify what’s out there about Islam, the religion.

If there were no financial constraints who would you bring in as a guest speaker and why?

I could give you a bunch of names, but those people are basically the forerunners of Islam right now. These people have been talking about meshing Western life with Islam and the Islamic people. If there was no money constraint or reality constraint I would bring in the Prophet Mohammed.

The mosque debate in New York City has highlighted pockets of resistance to Islam across the country. Has the group as a whole seen resistance to Islam in UR?

We’ve had our informal discussions [while] eating everyday for Ramadan and not a lot of people have said anything about it. I think that if anybody had some sort of experience it would have come up by now.

I think the UR community itself is a relaxed place.

I guess you could say [it is] a pretty liberal community. We’ve never really run into any issues being Muslim.

Willis is a member of the class of 2011.

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