MSA-er of the Month February 2013: Amre Metwally

The Muslim Students’ Association isn’t much of an association without its community members. MSA-ers routinely go above and beyond the call of duty to plan and execute events and campaigns, share their great ideas, and generally help other members of the community. In recognition of so many contributions, each month an outstanding member is nominated as MSA-er of the Month. The MSA-er of the Month for February 2013 is Amre Metwally!

Amre MetwallyAmre Metwally is a Senior studying History as well as Middle Eastern and North African Studies. During his four years at Michigan he’s made an impact on several campus groups, including Model United Nations at Michigan. This year he brought his talents to MSA, helping put on a variety of events. His contributions this year began with the role he played in planning,  organizing, and MCing Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s September visit to Ann Arbor. Not content to rest on his laurels, Amre got to work on MSA’s Social Justice and Activism committee, where he has provided insight and resources during the planning of March’s #MUSLIMRAGE panel. His work helping the Muslim community doesn’t end there, however. “I was often incredibly frustrated with how certain topics were (or just weren’t) discussed,” Amre writes for an email interview. This frustration led him and other MSA-ers to create Intragroup Dialogues, a series of organized discussions that would allow students to share their opinions and understand others’ beliefs on subjects ranging from race to modesty. As his time at Michigan winds down, Amre is making preparations to travel. He encourages others to do the same for personal development: “I think everyone needs to leave the bubble.”

Community Reflection: Making Our Mark – A Reflection from the 2012 MAS-ICNA Convention

In December of 2012, the MAS-ICNA convention brought roughly ten thousand attendees to Chicago. There, they listened to high-profile speakers like Tariq Ramadan talk about the year’s theme of “Renaissance.” Hussein Sheikh-Aden, LSA sophomore, recalls his experience below.

I’m chit-chatting with my friend to my right. We are choosing between places we wanted to check out in downtown Chicago. This small lapse in concentration during a lecture by the ever-insightful Tariq Ramadan is quickly cut short by something that sparks my interest.

“So, if you look at the example of Zinedine Zidane, we see how his background, race, and creed were rendered irrelevant after he won the World Cup with France in 1998.”

I am at full attention. Somewhat rudely, I tune out my friend’s musings on where we should go after the lecture to listen closer to what Dr. Ramadan is saying. For when one talks about anything related to football, one has my complete attention.

He goes on. “The fact that Zidane was an active part of the narrative made his compatriots see him as being 100% French regardless of his odd name and immigrant parents. If we want to be part of American culture and to be accepted as being American, we must be part of its narrative.”

My friend shakes my forearm and asks if I am listening. I apologize and we settle on heading to the Cheesecake Factory by cab after Dr. Ramadan finishes. As we walk out of the filled-to-capacity convention hall, I scribble down some key ideas on the inside of my wrist.

Dr. Ramadan, in this lecture entitled The New “We” Redefined, offered this wonderfully simple yet complex advice to the burgeoning Muslim American population. Simple in the sense that it can be summarized in a sentence: “if you want to be part of something, go out and be part of it.” Still, it is deep because the application may not be so straightforward. We often times complain about how Muslim Americans are treated as aliens from outside of American culture. Yet, the reason for this may be that we collectively fail to apply what Dr. Ramadan is speaking on.

If we as Muslims in America are to be parts of something larger than us―i.e., the society we live in―we have to participate in it while shaping its narrative. The longer that we live isolated in our own mosques and communities, the more space things such as Islamophobia and xenophobia have to exist. When we shape something with our hands and hard work, we have ownership over it. A type of ownership that dissuades anybody from telling us, “Well, you didn’t help do so and so, therefore it’s not yours and you’re not really part of us.”

To me, what Dr. Ramadan is saying is to venture into our local communities and build ties with the people around us regardless of their faith. The common ground here is that both parties are American, and that really should be enough. We should be the ones extending our hands and getting to know our neighbors. Muslim Americans need to be active in their communities, shaping our collective futures.

We arrive at our destination and indulge in some dessert. We get up and leave after some time and hail a cab to return to the convention hall. Our cab driver gets the conversation started.

“Where are you guys from? What brought you to town?” the driver asks, fairly sure of the fact that we are tourists.

“Yeah, we’re from Michigan. Here for this thing called the MAS convention.” I reply.

“Where are you guys really from?” he asks again, in a more assertive, probing tone.

“We’re from Somalia.” my friend quickly replies.

“I would’ve guessed that! I’m from Nepal, just got here a year and a half ago. So hard to live here, but man, America’s nice.” he goes on.

“Yeah, it is.” I reply, ending our pleasantries as we step back out onto the cityscape.

Community Reflection: Reviving Our Spirits

The Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention in Toronto, Canada draws thousands of Muslims every year, including some Michigan MSA-ers. The convention was most recently held from the 21st to the 23rd of December 2012. Nour Soubani, LSA sophomore, writes below on her experience that weekend.

As I sat outside the lecture hall waiting for the first session to start, I watched a middle-aged women, her head covered with a colorful scarf, corralling her three young children inside, all the while speaking to them in fluent French.

For me, this epitomized the experience of the 11th Annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention in Toronto. 25,000 people—men and women, children and teenagers, elderly and infants—from all over the world, representing all different cultures, languages, interests, and stories, gathered for those three days in what was truly a revival of the Islamic spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood for the sake of Allah (SWT).

The weekend started with a Friday sermon given by Imam Zaid Shakir. Through an analysis of the hadith describing those who will be shaded by the shade of Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgment, Imam Zaid clarified the purpose of the convention and the ultimate goal of the global Muslim community: to achieve an Ummah that promotes the seven types of people who will be shaded—just rulers, youth who grow up in the worship of Allah, men and women whose hearts are attached to the mosques, who love each other for Allah’s sake, who fear Allah in their actions, who give charity and hide it, and who shed tears in their private remembrance of the Creator.

And with this, three days of wisdom and motivation and knowledge ensued. Scholars from all over the globe—Professor Tariq Ramadan, Dr. Tawfique Chowdhury, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, Shaykh Sulaiman Mulla, Dr. Amr Khaled—all spoke on diverse aspects of building a community based on pleasing Allah (SWT). We learned about the importance of sincerity in our intentions, about the relevance of the Quran as a light in our lives, about the essential love for our brothers and sisters in Islam, and about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as our greatest example of character.

Inside the lecture hall, our minds worked, our collective motivation skyrocketed, our passions sparked. But outside of it, our hearts opened. Whether it was after prayer, having a conversation with someone you just happened to stand next to, or exchanging smiles and friendly words with the vendors in the bazaar, or sitting and sharing a meal with complete strangers in the dining area, the connections built with other Muslims were invaluable.  It didn’t matter that we would probably never meet again or even remember each other’s names. What mattered was that we share faith; we share a love for this faith and for all those who claim it, and for its last Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him. What mattered was that although I did not talk to, or even understand, the mother speaking in French with her children on that first day, nor did I see her again throughout the convention, she holds a place in my heart, and I am certain that I hold a place in hers.

So yes, I learned a lot. Yes, I heard verses from the Quran and listened to hadith and stories from the time of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions. And yes, I took notes on great milestones in Islamic history. But my takeaway from the weekend was not facts, or quotes, or even knowledge; rather, it was energy. It was an urgent desire to devote myself in the service of this great religion and its followers, and to work towards the maintenance of a bond that is billions strong, all based on the striking acceptance of one merciful God, and to be involved in the building of a community whose members will all be shaded under the magnificent shade of Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgment.

Professor Tariq Ramadan at the University of Michigan

The Muslim Students’ Association Presents

From the Arab Spring, Forward: Islam, Democracy & the Pursuit of Civil Society

with
Professor TARIQ RAMADAN

Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University

Free and open to the public.
Sponsored by the Islamic Studies Program, International Institute, Vice Provost for International Affairs, Weiser Center for Europe & Eurasia Studies, the Muslim Law Students Association and Model United Nations