Washington: An association of Muslim students in the United States has taken a unique initiative by providing scholarships to students in order to remove prevailing misconceptions about Islam and to spread the real message of Islam which is of love, peace and tolerance.
Islam is the second-most practiced religion across the globe with 1.5 billion followers. Despite that number, Islamophobia still persists in the western countries even at the educational institutes including the campus of University of Washington (UW).
To help dispel stereotypes and spread awareness about the religion, the UW Muslim Students Association (MSA) has established an annual scholarship of $1,000 for two freshmen or transfer students. This is the first-known scholarship developed by an MSA chapter nationwide.
“We have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, we work hard to earn a living for our families; we are doctors, teachers, in the US Army and police,” MSA President, Ahsen Nadeem, said.
“Our society and country needs to internalize the reality that Muslims are also Americans and we are working hard for a better and more progressive America,” he added.
The application essay to the scholarship asks applicants that why they “feel it is important to encourage the Muslim identity within Muslims on campus and [to] dispel stereotypes against Islam.”
Nadeem stated, “Hatred is rooted in ignorance and you can only fight darkness with light and the light in our situation is knowledge.”
He further said, “The more educated people are about Muslims, the greater the communication will be and the stronger our society and nation will be.”
He also said that the UW MSA seeks to be rid of labels and put an end to discrimination through its meetings, in which the members spread the truth about Islam.
“I’m very excited for what this group has been able to bring to this community,” MSA adviser, Jennifer Pope, said.
“It is always hard for people to find the money to put themselves through school, and this idea came to fruition in a very short timeline,” she added.
Pope said that the MSA is one of the more active RSOs on campus, holding multiple events each year. In February the organization will be hosting its annual Fast-a-thon, where students fast to raise awareness about hunger and homelessness in their communities. Other events, such as Islam Awareness Week, will happen later in the school year.
Officer Tariq Yusuf informed that the MSA is one of the few RSOs to offer any financial award and is eager to offer financial assistance to students.
He said, “We want to establish this as a tradition. We are hoping we can continue to raise enough money to keep this going for years to come.”
The application essay focuses on the two goals the MSA hopes to achieve. These goals include providing a safe and welcoming community for Muslim students and raising awareness of Islam in the UW and the U-District area.
“There are quite a few stereotypes that Muslims have to battle; the most common ones being that ‘Muslims are terrorists,’ ‘Muslims should be feared,’ and that ‘all Muslims are the same,’” Nadeem said.
MSA members believe that by developing a scholarship that addresses the issue of Muslim stereotypes and is available for both Muslims and non-Muslims, they are accomplishing both of their goals.
“We are extremely happy this is finally done; it took a lot of patience from the advisers. We really couldn’t have done it by ourselves, we had a lot of support from the community here at the UW. It really was a collective effort,” Nadeem concluded.