BY: JELANI GRANT
The Muslim Students Association held their first annual Continuing The Legacy conference inside the Instructional Centre of the University of Toronto-Mississauga.
Known as one of the largest and most active clubs on campus, the MSA has a 25-year reputation of creating a space for the Muslim student body to network, communicate and support each other. There are 3,000 students who identify as Muslim, 400 of whom are active members of the MSA. Though the conference was organized by the MSA, it was open to all UTM students and area locals. The executives managing the conference, Ali Kala, Hamza Ali Khan, Mohammad Amin, and Ahmed Salem agreed that communities should support each other regardless of cultures and backgrounds. Though they are a faith-based group Amin said the MSA wants “to be involved in the community it’s not just about faith”.
Despite the growing number of stories about xenophobia becoming more present across Canada, Ali Khan said he personally hasn’t faced any hostility at school. “Thankfully the people here are very kind and open,” Ali Khan said. “Because it is an academic setting they’re aware of the different perspectives.”
“What helps is the variety of cultures on campus. Before communities were more secluded, but…I am aware of different cultures and they are aware of me”, said Mohammad.
You aspire to develop yourself professionally, and you can do this through our interactive workshops. Pursuing excellence academics and community workshop. Mohammad said “we’re trying to hold hold workshops for students, youth like ourselves to volunteer and give time back to their community.”
Five booths were used to hold discussion groups preparing for their presentation. Each group would speak on a positive impact that can be made within the community. The prize money of $500 was determined by the best presentations. Public speaking workshops were also held for attendees who enjoyed the challenge and compete in the two stage, elimination-style case competition with teams of four. “Were trying to get kids who aren’t involved in social work”, said Hamza Ali Khan.
Mohammad said, “The rhetoric that’s being heard about Muslims and all the negatives that are unfortunately attached with that. Our goal was to show Canadian society how we can give back…taking care of your neighbours and the people around you ”
He cited groups like the Muslim Youth Federation and the National Council of Canadian Muslims that are already at the forefront of standing up for the Muslim community, especially victims of Xenophobia as one inspiration for the conference. He said he hopes the conference will encourage a growth of these groups, creating a stronger support system for everyone.
“Linking the students with them tends to be a difficult process. Our whole goal is to get that process out there.” Amin said the biggest challenge with this movement is Activists organizations are very busy.
As they are working towards outreach, as the largest club on campus, Ali Khan said the fear of some students not getting involved with civil rights groups is that “there’s no money in activism. The reasons we have conferences like this is to show students there are benefits…We say look at the problems that you’re solving.”
“There’s a lack of advertisement for these organizations…the purpose of the workshops are to inspire and motivate.” Kala said.
Amin asked the question “how do we make the youth understand us? How do we make them understand this community is theirs”.
He encouraged politicians and community leaders to rally the younger people together and support one another.
Though this year was focused on building the platform and raising awareness, Kala said they are already looking towards next year training more students with hopes of a greater turnout.
With 10 executives and 6 directors, the group work to serve the best interests of Muslim students on the UTM Campus, promoting unity, joint action and Islamic awareness.
University of Toronto also has a Muslim Student Association that occasionally works together with UTM working as an organization that promotes healthy social, academic, and religious initiatives to further advance student life at UTM.
The group is planning an event for Burmese Muslims at the end of the month. A few MPs and speakers will be on campus to speak about the current struggles in Burma. They also intend to travel downtown to a shelter to deliver care packages and food to the homeless. For more information about UTM MSA, visit their website or Facebook page. Their office is located in Room 232 of the Student Centre at the Mississauga campus.