Ryan Chartrand

Although Cal Poly lacks diversity, the presence of different cultural and religious clubs like the Muslim Student Association help alleviate the problem.

MSA has been an active club on campus for over 20 years. Much like Campus Crusade for Christ for the Christian students and Hillel for the Jewish students, MSA plays an important role for Muslim students looking to educate themselves and others about Islam and its view and role in the world.

“Many people do not know about Islam so what we do is educate from a Muslim perspective,” said biology major and member of the MSA Board of Directors Naiyerah Kolkailah.

Annual events sponsored by MSA include the Fast-a-Thon and Islam Awareness Week.

The Fast-a-Thon is one of MSA’s biggest events, and not only contributes to the education of fellow students but also helps the local and global community. Every year, MSA holds the Fast-a-Thon during the religious period of fasting, Ramadan.

Marya Mikati, an architecture engineering junior, said the club has recently shrunk because several members graduated last year. Currently, the MSA has 10 to 15 active members in Cal Poly’s chapter, which is one of thousands across North America.

“One of our goals is to recruit new members and we mostly do it through word of mouth,” Mikati said.

The club tries to celebrate Muslim holidays, like Ramadan, together. Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is a time when Muslims around the world refrain from food and drink, including water, from dawn to sunset. One of the most important factors for this religious period is to understand how life is for those who are less fortunate. This year, Ramadan will start in August.

At Cal Poly during the Fast-a-Thon, students can join MSA and the rest of the Muslim community for a day of fasting. Prior to the event, members find people in the local community and on campus to donate to their fast. After the event, all of the donations go to a local or global cause deemed important to MSA.

Past Fast-a-Thons have donated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the South-Asian Earthquake and to a local food bank.

Not only is education a core value of the organization, both nationally and at Cal Poly, but the club also exists to unite Muslim students.

“The idea is to come together,” Kolkailah said. “What unites us all is our faith.”

As the only Muslim group on campus, MSA feels it has the responsibility to connect Muslim students and bring awareness to diversity at Cal Poly.

With a 64.7 percent Caucasian population on campus, according to the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis, MSA represents one of the ethnic minorities at Cal Poly.

Mikati said that she’s never faced discrimination at Cal Poly because of her faith, but said there is a level of ignorance some students carry toward Islam.

“It’s not done out of hatred,” Mikati said of the stereotyping. She added that most students are “open-minded” when she informs them of her religion.

The national organization, MSA National, began in 1963 and became such a success with Muslim students that it was eventually divided into sub-chapters for regions in the United States and Canada.

Both Muslims and non-Muslims are welcome at MSA events and meetings and are encouraged to come and educate themselves about Islam and the Cal Poly Muslim community.

The first meeting of the quarter will take place tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the Engineering East building, room 129.

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