It is common for new college students to explore and wonder how to develop new friendships, especially when moving away from home. However, it can be even more challenging for those that hold marginalized identities. Eaman Saleh’s experience of being visibly Muslim sometimes causes her to feel like the “odd one out” in class. For Saleh, discovering the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Illinois State University was her way to begin developing a sense of belonging on campus, knowing that she had one thing in common with the other group members, being Muslim.

MSA was founded in 2013 as a registered student organization to promote peace, unity, and diversity as well as to educate those who want to learn more about Islam and the life of a Muslim in the United States. As a sophomore, Saleh has been a part of this organization since her spring semester freshman year and is the organization’s secretary.

In the context of COVID-19, Saleh was able to get to know the executive board and other members remotely until they were all able to meet in-person for the first time this past fall semester. Saleh said that it was an exciting and busy time for the group to connect and see their planning and hard work come to fruition.

For example, MSA hosted a public event on November 11, 2021, with guest speaker Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, executive director of Gain Peace, discussing an “Introduction to Islam–Myths and Facts.” Additionally, World Hijab Day was on February 1, where students were able to meet with MSA members to learn about the Islamic head covering in the Bone Student Center or Schroeder Hall, with guest speaker Alya Kazak. Saleh said that it has been uplifting and rewarding to witness the ISU community express genuine interest and curiosity about Islam and looks forward to future events that MSA is planning.  

Saleh said any student, regardless of identifying as Muslim or not, is welcome to join MSA. It is an opportunity to explore and dismantle assumptions or stereotypes that are associated with Islam. She hopes that MSA will continue to expand and connect with other MSA organizations across nearby college campuses.

To learn more about events MSA is hosting, follow the event calendar on Facebook-@ilstumsa as well as follow on Instagram–MSA.ISU.  

For those searching for local Friday prayer locations, MSA encourages attending the Islamic Center of McLean County (ICMC), at 421 Olympia Dr., Bloomington. Visit the ICMC website for Friday prayer timing (Jumu’ah Salah). For those unable to go to ICMC, the MSA offers Friday khutbah and prayer at 3:15 p.m. in the reflection/prayer room at the Multicultural Center, at 301 S. Main Street.