For Muslim students, a debate on inclusion

A debate on whether organizations for Muslim students should be inclusive or strict is unfolding on college campuses across the United States, where there are now more than 200 Muslim Students Association (MSA) chapters. Gender issues and relations are among the most fraught topics as Muslim students wrestle with the gap between American college traditions and those of Islam. Each chapter of the MSA is mostly autonomous in its rules, and discrepancies between liberal and conservative Muslim student groups are prompting Muslim students to reflect on the diversity of their representation. From clothing, to mixed-gender dodge-ball games, kissing at public ceremonies, to gender segregated barbecues, the levels of rigidity vary greatly. Amir Mertaban, who was president of his Muslim student group at California State Polytechnic University, Pamona said: There were drunkards in the Prophet Muhammad’s community; there were fornicators and people who committed adultery in his community, and he didn’t reject them… I think MSA’s are beginning to understand this point that every person has ups and downs. x