Long Beach State’s Muslim Student Association is creating a safe space for Muslim and non-Muslim students alike to support those who practice Islam.
Fourth-year health care administration major Rena Youseff joined her high school’s MSA and was part of the board for the last two years she was there. She didn’t plan on joining MSA at CSULB, but found she was lonely on campus during her first semester.
That changed when she attended a meeting during the second semester of her freshman year with one of her friends, fourth-year psychology major Shahera Khalil.
After having a lot of fun during the meeting, they decided to join as members. Youseff later became president of the MSA, with Khalil as external vice president.
“I found my community there [and] my lifelong friends that I met that year,” Youseff said. “We’re still friends to this year. It’s been a great journey so far.”
Youseff is excited to be at school with her community and friends who relate to her religiously. She found a home away from home.
“We have the same goals, we motivate each other to do good,” Youseff said. “It’s very heartwarming and makes me feel complete.”
Muslim chaplain Muzzammil Dadabhoy at the Institute of Knowledge (IOK) in Diamond Bar is hosted by the association and is available for students to meet during office hours via Zoom or in person.
He meets from 12:30 pm to 2:30 p.m. to talk about anything, and stays on campus until 7 p.m.
After office hours, a study circle is held with the chaplain where he gives an Islamic lesson from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. before the general MSA meetings from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The lectures are held at the meeting by the chaplain or a special guest.
“As our chaplain, he’s just there for us in every way,” Khalil said. “Sometimes he even is the host of the meeting in terms of just leading the talk.”
MSA meetings incorporate fun activities by having social events and not just lectures.
“For socials, we do activities surrounding our religion as well to incorporate some fun into learning about Islam,” Youseff said. “Once a month, we go out for a club dinner instead of having a general meeting.”
Khalil’s favorite activity with MSA is the monthly group dinners. The restaurant location is kept secret until the meeting and about 40 to 50 members join together to share a meal.
The monthly group dinners are a way for MSA to make members feel welcomed.
“We like to switch it up a lot because we don’t want to be very intimidating. We want to welcome people into the religion and into MSA because MSA I think has dealt with a lot of negative stigma in the Muslim community because people feel judged,” Youseff said. “We’re trying to kind of debunk that and try to represent MSA and Islam and present it in a new light.”
Another way MSA members have united as a community is by supporting each other during Ramadan, which includes fasting from dawn to dusk, which ends this week.
MSA will celebrate the end of Ramadan at their meeting on April 20 which lands on Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of fasting.
“We have an Eid gift exchange where we choose random names and they give gifts to their chosen people. It’s really cute,” Khalil said.
This spring 2023 semester was Khalil’s return to the CSULB campus and her first time participating in Ramadan during school. It was a struggle for her at first, but seeing her friends go through it helped her.
Members also helped motivate each other during Ramadan by praying together at a mosque. “Encouraging others and being the reason why people are going to the mosque is just another level of good deeds that you gain,” Khalil said.
There are resources at CSULB for Muslim students to perform prayer during school, such as using the Reflection Room at the University Student Union and Muslim Resource Center in FO4-282 located in the Cultural Resource Center. A foot washing station is also available to use prior to prayer at the USU.
Both Youseff and Khalil encourage students that are interested in MSA to attend a meeting to see if they end up enjoying their time there and possibly join.
“There’s a beautiful community that comes with MSA,” Khalil said. “I’m so happy and so lucky to be a part of it. It would be a blessing to be a part of this community.”
MSA meets every Thursday, providing a day full of activities for the students to enjoy. For more information, check out their Instagram @msacsulb.