Muslim students come together through RSO

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Staff Reporter

About five years ago, a concerned professor asked Eastern for a place where Muslim students could meet and pray together. This moment led to the creation of the Muslim Student Association, an organization focused on promoting interfaith understanding and tolerance and on holding Muslim religious events on campus.

Sofiane Aiche, a senior biology student, is the vice president of the Muslim Student Association. He explained that since the organization first began, its main goal has been to provide a place where Eastern’s Muslim community can do their daily prayers. Aiche explained that they meet at the Cultural Center three times a day to do their daily prayers, which only last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes.

“We are kind of a small mosque, because here in Charleston, there is not a mosque. Right now, we are meeting three times a day for our prayers. First, we meet at 6:00 am, then 4:00 pm, and then at 8:00 pm every day. It’s usually a small group that meets for the prayers. It’s just the president, vice president, and an advisor, so about 3 or 4 people,” Aiche said.

Other religious groups, like the Christian and Catholic communities in the Charleston area, have places where they can meet and worship together. Muslim Student Association wants to provide that same opportunity to Muslim students who want to worship as well.

“We just want to do our prayers like everybody else,” he said.

Muslim Student Association does not just do meetings for daily prayers, but also meets for weekly meetings on Fridays from 1:15 pm to 2:15 pm at the Cultural Center.

“On Fridays, we meet in a big group of maybe around twenty-five people. It changes every semester, because we have people coming and going. The Muslim Student Association mostly has international students, and we also have about five professors with us,” he said.

Apart from their daily prayers and weekly meetings, Muslim Student Association also does a lot of charity work and events.

The Muslim Student Association is focused on helping one another. One major thing the Muslim Student Association does is that they have a box where everybody in the organization can place money. If anybody needs the money, they can feel free to use some from the box.

“For example, we raised money for a guy who needed rent for like six or seven months. Then he could pay us back, but if he could not, he did not need to do so,” he said.

The Muslim Student Association also likes to help Muslim students when they arrive at Eastern, helping them with anything from finding a place to stay, helping them with books, or providing them with things they may need like blankets or pillows. They also help people who may need rides around the Charleston area.

As for events, the Muslim Student Association does a lot as part of the Eastern community. They host many dinners where they buy food to feed people in the community. They do not want people to feel pressure to bring food or to pay to eat at these dinners if they cannot do so, so they are happy providing the food for free.

They also do other types of events, like events where they can teach children the Quran and how to speak the Arabic language, since it is a requirement for Muslim people practicing Islam. Other events the organization does is watching documentaries about Islam or discussing politics together.

One of their biggest events every year are the potlucks they have during Ramadan.

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. During this time, Muslim people fast from dawn to sunset. They do so by abstaining from eating any food, drinking any liquids, smoking cigarettes, and engaging in any sexual activity during that time.

During Ramadan, they would have that month where they have potlucks, bringing their families and friends to eat together.

One of the organization’s biggest activities was when they were raising money to build a mosque in Charleston. It is something they are still hoping to make happen, but they are facing challenges with making their plans come to fruition.

“This year we were trying to build a mosque in Charleston and we were trying to find a place to build it. We tried to raise funds and we collected about $130,000, and then we couldn’t have the state approve the building of a mosque,” he said. “We are still hoping to make this happen, but our problem is that people come and go from Charleston every year, so we don’t have somebody who is always here. If you want to build a mosque, you need a lot of people who are here for a long time.”

Because of COVID-19 and the guidelines set to prevent the spread of it in our Eastern community, the Muslim Student Association has had to make lots of adjustments in order to effectively hold those in-person daily prayers and weekly meetings.

“We used to pray on one carpet, but now everybody has to bring small sheets with them. We have to bring our own carpets because that is very important for not spreading the virus. We do social distancing during the prayers, as well as on our Friday meetings,” he said. “Because, [for our daily prayers], we only have about four people, it is very easy to practice social distancing when we meet. On Fridays, it is more difficult, so we try to do our best to separate, to put on masks, and to have a lot of hand sanitizer. Also, a lot of people don’t come anymore because of Covid.”

The Muslim Student Association wants people to know that everybody is welcome, and that if anybody wants to learn more, they can come to the Cultural Center on Fridays and ask whatever questions they may have.

 

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]