Our Muslim Community
By: Mansoor Alam
To write this with honestly was quite difficult—it is hard to portray the Muslim experience at Wes as one that is largely positive. What it means to be a Muslim at Wesleyan is largely defined by all of the characteristics you thought would only contribute to creating a more vibrant community at Wes. Beyond race and ethnicity—one of the most defining factors of the Muslim experience at Wes is your individual interpretation and practice of Islam—your level of religiosity—and how others perceive this in the community.
I have been told that there once existed an MSA at Wesleyan that was not riddled with constant debates over whose beliefs were right, an MSA not consumed by homophobia and fears that the liberal ideals of Wesleyan would infiltrate our community. I have been told that there once existed an MSA that was truly beautiful – where students came as they were and rarely left. An MSA that created an environment where people embraced Islam – that encouraged dialogue. The Muslim community at Wes has become quite dismissive in my time here, and it is heartbreaking to see students needing to walk away from the MSA because they could not be the Muslim and person they were there.
I can think of no other way to capture the state of the Muslim community at Wes than to tell the following story.
The first thing I was taught on campus, directed to me as a Muslim student, was that there is a division in the Wesleyan community. Those who are. And those are not. At the Friday Prayer during my freshman orientation, a man gave a sermon urging us Wesleyan Muslim students to avoid many of the official orientation events, in particular, “Bend It At Beckham”. He said, “beware of the strange things that go on at this campus”.
Three years later I stood in his place, and gave a Friday sermon to the incoming class of 2017. I ended my talk by asserting that the best way to test our beliefs, our own faith, was to challenge them by stepping out of our comfort zones. I made sure to acknowledge the strange things on campus as well, quoting Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) – “Islam began as something strange; and it will return as something strange.” Given the places we come from, the environments we grew up in, characteristics about ourselves that we have no control over – we as Muslims on campus can no longer expect a completely homogenous Muslim community. As a Muslim at Wes, you will encounter things that are unfamiliar. You will be challenged. And most importantly, you must actively choose what your contributions will be to the Muslim community at Wes, and to the larger Wesleyan community.
We cannot begin to claim that others do not accept us when we do not even accept ourselves.