Muslim Student Association educates students during Islamic Awareness Week


Members of the Moorpark College Muslim Student Association stand for the Jumu'ah prayer on campus on Friday, Jan. 31. The sermon and prayer is the final celebration for Islam Awareness Week. Photo credit: Morgan Ellis

By Morgan Ellis

Last week, one of Moorpark College’s most active clubs, the Muslim Student Association, conducted a series of daily events from Jan. 27- 31 to acknowledge Islamic Awareness Week.

“I think it’s all about raising awareness,” MSA member Igbal Abdalla mentioned. “Also, just feeling like I could do activities about my religion on campus, it’s a really huge thing for me because not a lot of colleges do that. For me being able to celebrate it, it’s very important.”

One of the club’s primary goals is to address Islamophobia and counter stereotypes and misconceptions regarding Islam. The club also wanted to show people that there is a large Muslim presence at Moorpark College, and encourage those who identify with the community to get involved, but also educate and interact with people who aren’t Muslim. The club is open to all who are eager to participate.

For the first day of Islamic Awareness Week, the club wanted to give students some basic information about their faith by informing people about the five pillars of Islam.

“We had a really big turnout where people were coming in, they were getting educated, everybody was talking,” president of the MSA, Salman Muntazir remarked.

The second day overlapped with Club Rush, so the MSA was able to take advantage of the extra foot traffic along Raider Walk to celebrate “Meet A Muslim Day.” Members of the club hand made large picture frames and gave out roses, which encouraged students to approach the club for a picture and some conversation.

On Wednesday, also taking place during Club Rush, they celebrated “World Hijab Day.” The goal was to educate students about the spiritual and cultural value of the hijab, and break any stereotypes or misconceptions surrounding it. They offered free scarves to students passing by.

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Aya Alioua, member of Moorpark College's Muslim Student Association, sits at the club's booth for World Hijab Day on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. They are encouraging students to take a complimentary scarf and "strike a pose." Photo credit: Morgan Ellis

“People need to know that it’s not a sign of oppression, but a sign of submission to God,” Muntazir said. “It’s a choice, and it actually shows a sign of freedom in Islam.”

The next day, the MSA staged a peaceful protest to raise awareness to injustices surrounding the Muslim community all over the world, in places such as, but not limited to, Palestine, Yemen, China, India, Sudan and even the United States.

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Maisam Barakat, from left, and Maryam Sayeda follow chants during the Moorpark College Muslim Student Association's peaceful protest in front of Fountain Hall on Thursday, Jan. 30. For the fourth day of Islamic Awareness Week, the club is educating people about injustices around the world surrounding the Muslim community through this demonstration. Photo credit: Morgan Ellis

Members of the club stood in front of Fountain Hall with signs preaching peace, including Aveista Helmandi, the club’s public outreach representative, educated students about issues that they may not have previously been aware of. This was followed by a series of chants led by Helmandi.

“It’s important to know that our own neighbors in Moorpark College are affected by this,” Helmandi said in her speech. “It’s a continuous thing that individuals don’t even talk about.”

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Aveista Helmandi, the public outreach coordinator of the Muslim Student Association, leads chants during the peaceful protest in front of Fountain Hall on Thursday, Jan. 30. One of the chants recited during the fourth day of Islamic Awareness Week is "The people united will never be divided." Photo credit: Morgan Ellis

For the final day of Islamic Awareness Week, the MSA held a sermon and prayer, called Jumu’ah, on the quad. It was led by Naquib Shifa, a high school teacher from Simi Valley who also enjoys delivering sermons and educating people about Islam.

This was held specifically on Friday because of the spiritual significance of the day, similar to Saturday in Judaism and Sunday in Christianity.

“People just need to know that we exist, we are on campus, and these are our ideas,” Muntazir reflected.