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Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada Tareen, SherAfgan


The Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (popularly known as MSA) is a network of Muslim communities that gather at and draw their support from college campuses. The history of the MSA dates back to the early sixties, a time period when Muslim migrants from the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region, South Asia, and Far East Asia migrated in large numbers to the United States in pursuit of graduate training in STEM fields and humanities. The earliest conventions of the MSA were held on college campuses in the Midwest region, including the University of Illinois campus in Champaign- Urbana. While majority of the MSA presidents were male graduate students, their wives played an even greater role in the growth of the Muslim Students Association by establishing the Women’s Committee of the Muslim Students Association. One of the key ritual practices of the Muslim Students Association is the Quran Study Circle. It had been organized on college campuses such as Karachi University, Pakistan long before the pioneers of the Muslim Students Association migrated to the United States. Through discussing commentaries on the Quran collectively, students sought to upend the separation of religion from higher education that had been brought forth by colonization and elevate Islam as a methodological hook for an integrative model of learning. In the United States, the Quran Study Circle addressed the shared concerns of women around childrearing. Its participants were the pioneers of the Women’s Committee of the MSA. They gathered at each other’s homes and leveraged the Quran as a prompt for discussing shared experience of parenting and raising young Muslim children in suburban and ex-urban landscapes where there had been no existing institutional presence of Islam. These conversations inspired the growth of the North American Islamic School Movement. Examples include Al-Fatih Academy, a K-8th grade Islamic School that offers an integrative model of education with hopes of helping its student body learn to cognize their emotions. In addition to the development of Islamic schools, the Muslim Students Association also gave birth to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Located in Plainfield, Indiana, ISNA seeks to elevate Islam and uplift Muslim-American communities through interfaith dialogue and civic engagement. One of the enduring hallmarks of the Muslim Students Association has been a distinctively feminine approach to activism centered around building relationships and cultivating emotional connection across religious, national, and racial lines of difference. MSA’s commitment to a transnational ummah/community is best exemplified by the deep bonds of friendship and camaraderie between the movement’s pioneers that endure to this day.

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