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ISSU and MSAN work together to put on Islam Awareness series

Two Muslim student groups are cosponsoring an “Islam Awareness” event series in an effort to highlight what organizer Osama El-Gabalawy ’15 has called an overlooked issue — Muslim identity and experience.

The series is held by the Islamic Society of Stanford University (ISSU) and the Muslim Student Awareness Network (MSAN) every year.

In the last few weeks, the groups have held a comedy show, a spoken word performance and panels on women’s issues in Islam and how to create safe spaces.

Upcoming events include an interfaith Friday prayer and lunch open to the whole community on May 8 and a panel in which converts to Islam will discuss their Muslim identities on May 15. Another panel on Islamophobia in America is still in the works.

“I think not too many people are familiar with what it’s like to be Muslim American, or even a lot of the things that affect the Muslim world and the people that live there,” said El-Gabalawy, a member of both groups.

Though we may not realize it, microaggressions against Muslims happen at Stanford all the time, said El-Gabalawy.

“People are like, oh, I can see where that’s happening elsewhere, but not on my campus, not my Stanford,” he said.

El-Gabalawy added that not everyone at Stanford may understand where Muslim students are coming from — in terms of the Islamophobic experiences they’ve been through, or in terms of the ways they navigate common issues like alcohol and sexuality that can be different from the average Stanford student’s.

For Kate Bridges-Lyman MA ’15, the ISSU Vice President, the most important thing about the series is getting people from the broader Stanford community to come to ISSU and MSAN events.

“I think Muslim identity is usually kind of pushed into the corner as a political identity and nothing else, and I think that understanding other aspects of Muslim identity is really important,” Bridges-Lyman said. “So I hope this series can touch on some of those other topics.”

In another effort to improve the experience of the Muslim community on campus, the ISSU is pushing for the Office for Religious Life to hire a Muslim spiritual leader, Bridges-Lyman said.

“I think that having an actual Muslim chaplain is something that’s really important to help Muslim students with religion-specific questions, like, what does the Qur’an say about this, or how do I deal with Islamophobia — those are issues that people outside the faith might not have a lot of insight into,” Bridges-Lyman said.


Abigail Schott-Rosenfield/The Stanford Daily