As the leaves swirled down from the trees outside of Armstrong on Friday, Nov. 15, Miami’s Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) swirled ornate designs onto the arms of students who stopped at their booth.
Adjacent to a card table covered with various canned foods like Campbell’s soup and JIF peanut butter is another table occupied by a student practicing an ancient art form: henna.
With the holiday season coming up, the MSA teamed up with the Oxford Community Choice Pantry to host a food drive. They are accepting donations of canned foods or dollar bills to give to the food bank.
In return for donations, the association gave out chocolate chip cookies, candy and free henna tattoos. Sophomore Mariam Karimi grew up learning how to do henna in her Pakistani household with her aunts. They would sit around and practice different designs on each other.
“It’s a way to visually express my culture,” Karimi said.
Karimi traces beautiful flower-like patterns on the center of the backs of students’ hands with intricate patterns consisting of lines and dots that run up their fingers. The entire process takes about 20 minutes for one hand to ensure the design is perfectly symmetrical.
Fatima Emlemdi, intercultural diversity studies professor and co-advisor for the MSA, has one mission for the Muslim students in the organization: to make them a more visible part of the campus community.
Sophomore May Alhashash said it’s really beneficial to have MSA here at Miami so she feels more at home.
“It’s difficult not having any other of your religious affiliation around you all the time,” Alhashash said.
The MSA holds prayer times and meetings every Friday and gives the Muslim students on campus a place to call their own. Organization president and junior Zaim Haq takes it upon himself to make students feel comfortable and to educate Miami students about Islam.
“I try to raise awareness of the values of Islam,” Haq said. “A lot of people have these preconceived notions of what Islam is.”
Emlemdi said it’s incredibly important to have organizations like the MSA these days as America gets more and more diverse, to a point that diversity is inevitable.
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“You can’t live isolated,” Emlemdi said. “People are not just from different cultural backgrounds. [There are] people with disabilities, people with different sexual orientations, different genders. People are different. They change so much and so rapidly at the same time.”
Emlemdi works with the Center of American World Culture and is an advocate for diversity — the more diversity, the better off our world will be as we learn from one another, he said.
“Everyone has the right to be respected and acknowledged,” Emlemdi said. “There is space for everyone. No one can do it on their own.”
The MSA hopes to host further installments of the food drive in the coming years. For more information on joining the Muslim Students’ Association, email firstname.lastname@example.org.