New MSA club seeks to eliminate stereotypes

Muslim Student Association club provides space for Muslim students

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On Feb. 15, NT approved MSA, which stands for Muslim Student Association. MSA is a 50-year-old national organization with over 100 chapters in the United States and Canada in both colleges and high schools. In the Chicago area, Niles North, Niles West, Stevenson, Main West, and Maine East High schools implemented an (Islamic) Club.NT was an outlier among neighboring high schools and universities in the Chicago area.
In fact, according to club sponsor and English teacher Kiran Subhani, students have been trying to get the club started for over a decade.However, according to Student Activities Director Stacy Kolack, the reasoning behind the long process of approving MSA club is because students were very busy with school and some may have taken longer on filling out paperwork.
In addition, Student Alliance President Bill Yen said, “The leaders of MSA spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect balance between creating a club that is educating students about Islam and a club that promotes the religion, which they unfortunately cannot do in a public school.”
However, Yen knew how much time MSA club has worked with Stacy Kolack on improving their plan for the club, and finally passed the club because they believed that they did a good job of planning and working out the details.
According to the club’s proposal, MSA has two main purposes: “It will serve Muslim students by providing them with a space where they can be around other Muslims, which can be difficult in the NT community. Second, it serves the students and faculty by educating them about Islam.”
Subhani believes it’s important for students to feel connected and welcomed especially to a high school that contains a majority of caucasian population.”
“For students who are Muslim, it’s important for them to have a space where they don’t feel isolated. In this club, students can develop a sense of confidence in their faith. We hope that this club and its members will give each other a sense of identity and confidence so that it’s easy for students to acclimate as much as possible within white American culture,” said Subhani.
Whereas for the club’s student leaders it was even more important to have dialogue with students who have misconceptions about Islam.
Senior and MSA head Farah Qureshi believes while the school can often seem like a very accepting community, there are still situations where students who belong to a minority group can feel out of place.
“I think that the school’s administration and students should take the initiative to identify and fix these situations, because there are visible repercussions.”
In addition, this club will provide a need to eliminate any negative stereotypes about Islam in the township. Though it might not seem like it, there stereotypes exist towards Muslim students.
In fact, according to the club’s proposal: “One of the potential members wore a niqab, and has stated that she had grown accustomed to uncomfortable stares and questions about her behind her back. She wished that they would have directly asked her questions, rather than making assumptions about her. By educating student and faculty, we can show them how to deal with unfamiliar situations regarding Muslims.”
Similarly, Subhani said Muslim youth often think that they have to choose between being Muslim and being American.
“Having an MSA can help students balance this issue and even help Muslim students who are suffering from an identity crisis.”
According to Yen, since SA is primarily a policy-driven group, they currently don’t have any plans to do anything specifically to promote or bring awareness to Islam. However, he said that SA will do anything they can to help out clubs.
“We are the leader of clubs, so we will do what we can to help clubs like MSA, Club Israel, etc. should they decide that they would like to spearhead an event like Islamic/other religion/ethnic awareness week and would like our help for the logistical aspects of the project,” said Yen.