Anna Philpott from The Muse had the pleasure of reaching out to MUN’s Muslim Student Association (MSA). Then, she connected with Ghazia Azam, the VP of Internal Affairs at the MSA, to discuss Azam’s personal experiences in the society, her thoughts on recent events, and why it is more crucial now than ever to protect and support the Muslim community here at MUN.
ANNA PHILPOTT: Could you provide a brief description about MSA alongside their missions and goals?
GHAZIA AZAM: The MSA is committed to facilitating equity and diversity in education. We are the Muslim Student Representatives on campus, and as such, one of our essential functions is to advocate for Muslim student concerns and bring about changes to address these concerns. Another one of our main objectives is to facilitate interreligious dialogue and increase awareness in an effort to eliminate Islamophobia.
How long have you been in this society, and why did you personally decide to join?
I have been working with MUN for almost two semesters at this point. I understand the importance of the mission of the MSA, and its goals align with my personal aims as well. The scale of the interconnectivity between the MSAs of different universities also meant that it would be the perfect venue to develop and diversify my skills. So far, my experience with the MSA has been amazing and eye-opening. I plan to continue working with them for the entirety of my university career.
What was an event hosted by the MSA that was meaningful to you?
Back in March, we worked with the MSAs of the University of Saskatoon, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University to host an online United Islam Awareness Week event a while back. It was a weeklong online event that was attended by around 500 people from 30 different countries. The outreach and global impact of the event were unbelievable. It’s also amazing that a group of students were able to organize and execute such a remarkable event.
How has this society been impacted by COVID-19?
The MSA was known for its impressive and extensive in-person events. Prior to the pandemic, our events would include Muslims as well as non-Muslims and people from all ethnicities and nationalities. We have not been able to achieve those numbers since the pandemic and due to social distancing regulations post-pandemic. Despite the challenges we faced, the MSA has remained one of the most active student societies over the past year. We hope to make a comeback after the return to campus in Fall 2021.
What were your initial thoughts regarding the act of terror against the Muslim family in London, Ontario?
It was terrifying and devastating. It’s really hard to believe that a Muslim family would be so brutally murdered in a place like Canada. The incident was a manifestation of the buildup of microaggressions that Muslims have faced throughout their lives, and we need to deal with the root of the problem: misinformation and propaganda.
Do you believe MUN is doing enough to support its Muslim students and make them feel safe? If yes, how so? If not, what can they do better?
I believe that MUN has taken exceptional measures to support diversity and inclusiveness in its student body. That is also made apparent by the percentage of international students that are registered students at MUN. Furthermore, right after the incident, we received condolence messages from quite a few student societies and even from Dr. Timmons herself. However, I think more can always be done to support Muslim students. One of the most important things would be to raise awareness. This could be done by including facts about Muslims in the orientation material, starting Scholarships and Awards for Muslim students in leadership, and so much more.
Aside from spreading awareness through social media, how can other students actively work against the discrimination of Muslims?
I would really encourage anyone that wishes to support Muslims to conduct some active research into Isam and its principles. I believe that if people could thoroughly understand what we believe, they would be better suited to support us. Furthermore, feel free to ask your Muslim friends as many questions as you need to to understand how exactly you should support them. We are always happy to explain.
What would you say to convince a Muslim student to join this society? i.e. What have you personally gained from joining?
I would say that for me, this society has definitely been a piece of home away from home. I relate to the students and other execs running this society, and I have made a ton of friends working here. I would encourage students to join the MSA because it is one of the places where you can make real-world and lasting changes. We advocate, and we advertise like all student societies, of course, but we go a step further from that and actually bring about transformations that make a difference in the lives of students and community members. One of the things that I love most about the MSA is how versatile it is. We can really partake in any and all activities that support the Muslim community on campus. Our members also come from all fields and disciplines, and as such, the MSA is a great place to interact with students from varying disciplines. MSA is a convergence point for cultures, ethnicities, and interests, and we would definitely be thrilled to have new members joining!
Is there anything specific you would like to mention/discuss?
I would like to use this space to encourage non-Muslims to reach out to their Muslim friends in times like these and check up on them. Also, if you ever want to learn more about Islam, please feel free to attend any and all MSA events. We would be happy to see you there.
Reach out to the MSA here.