U of Penn Muslims for Justice : " Islam is a complete way of life -we cannot separate politics from religion"
December 22, 2005
New Muslim group has political focus
The Muslim Students Association assembled last night to form Penn Muslims for Justice.
By laura sullivan
February 26, 2003
According to Islamic beliefs, the prophet Muhammad would stop a wrong by speaking out against it, said Feraz Rahman.
So under Rahman's initiative, a new politically-driven organization under the Muslim Students Association has formed with just that objective in mind.
"We have to stop all oppression," the first-year neuroscience doctoral graduate student urged an audience of approximately 20 last night. "Not just oppression against Muslims."
The group assembled for the first time last night to outline specific goals and objectives.
"First, we have to establish an identity," Rahman told the group, whose name was decided upon at the meeting.
Knowing the importance of a title, the group questioned its future scope and membership in order to come up with a name.
"The name reflects your philosophy and what it's geared toward," Engineering junior Amin Venjara said.
Concurring on "Penn Muslims for Justice" as an apt name, the group set about establishing specific proactive measures.
"It's not good enough for us to kind of just feel it in our hearts," Muslim Students Association President and Wharton sophomore Muhammed Mekki said of the group's political leanings. "This is going to be an action group."
Mekki also extolled the benefits of being a separate organization that is still under the MSA. While giving support, the board plans "to give the freedom and free reign to let this group get things done without the red tape," Mekki said.
One of the first things the newly formed group hopes to establish is a voice on campus -- a united front that speaks against injustice, especially against Muslims.
"The glaring thing that jumps out right now is the war on Iraq," Rahman said.
Certainly glaring to College senior Yasmine El-Shamayleh, the potential war with Iraq poses both a threat and an opportunity to publicize the new organization.
The group agreed and supported El-Shamayleh's proposal to endorse the anti-war national student walk-out "Books Not Bombs!"
Scheduled for Wednesday, March 5, the walk-out poses an opportunity for the organization to have a presence on campus.
"It's not a Muslim initiative -- it's a very American, white initiative," El-Shamayleh said of the event, although it is endorsed by the national MSA group.
"We'll have signs with the name of our group" at the march, Rahman said. "People can see that we're here."
And although for the time being Penn Muslims for Justice plans to focus on establishing coalitions and working with other campus groups, the association has high expectations for sponsoring its own projects.
"We've accomplished the goal of being active from the start," Venjara said. "We will probably kick off serious events beginning next semester."
And while the new group is quickly gaining ground, this political branch of the MSA "took a while to come to fruition," Mekki said. Traditionally, the MSA has maintained a religious and less controversial focus.
Yet Mekki applauded the political subgroup's formation.
"Islam is a complete way of life, and one cannot separate politics from religion," he said.
El-Shamayleh, too, welcomed the addition of a political Muslim organization to campus.
"This is something I've been waiting for since I got here."