Usama Malik

From left, business freshman Subah Ahmed and neuroscience freshman Khadija Saifullah help undeclared sophomore Charlotte Friend put on a hijab. The Muslim Student Association held an event Monday celebrating World Hijab Day.

Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

Students of all races, genders, cultures and religions tried on hijabs — traditional headscarves worn by Muslim women — for an event the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) held Monday to celebrate World Hijab Day.

World Hijab Day was on Sunday, but the MSA delayed its event to better engage the UT community in raising awareness about Muslim customs. MSA students were available to provide information about Islamic culture and set up a table filled with a row of hijabs for students to try on.

“There are so many people on campus who wear one, and I think it’s really important to see who these people are, why they wear it, why it empowers them and what it means to them,” said Maryam Siddiqui, MSA outreach director and Middle Eastern studies and Arabic junior.

It is a common misconception that women are told they have to wear hijab, according to Siddiqui, who said she wears hijab to express her religion and finds the garment empowering.

“I wear hijab because it was solely my decision,” Siddiqui said. “No one asked me to wear it. The hijab is a way for me to get closer to God.”

Wearing hijab creates a community among other Muslim women, said Rawand Abdelghani, MSA president and psychology junior, who has worn hijab daily for almost a year.

“It’s been a really good experience,” Abdelghani said. “Walking around campus, if you see someone else wearing hijab, even if you don’t know them, there’s a little bond in a way. You say hi or you say salaam.” 

While Muslim men do not wear the garment, Usama Malik, MSA vice president and governor senior, said they are expected to be equally modest. Malik said the hijab is more than a headscarf. It also represents respectful interactions between genders. MSA will host an event Friday discussing this in depth called “How men wear the hijab.”

“We don’t have any garment that we put on, but we observe other practices such as respecting women — we avert our gaze,” Malik said.

Undeclared sophomore Charlotte Friend said she was interested in trying one on herself at UT’s World Hijab Day after seeing a video of women trying on hijabs in New York.

“It was really interesting, [but] nothing like wearing it all day,” Friend said. “I felt more connected with the girls who were wearing hijabs, obviously for religious reasons. I just felt like I could respect their culture more because I knew more about it and could experience it firsthand.”

People experience prejudice worldwide for wearing a hijab, according to Siddiqui, but she said she hasn’t faced much prejudice while wearing her hijab on campus. Siddiqui said she believes it is important to educate people about what it means to wear a hijab and about Islam as a whole to avoid conflicts, such as those that happened at Texas Muslim Capitol Day last week, when state Rep. Molly White asked Muslims to publicly pledge allegiance to American law. 

“I think what happened at the Capitol was a really great thing because no one really knew that Muslim Capitol Day was that day until a bunch of these protesters came out,” Siddiqui said. “It created a dialogue, which I think is so important.”

Events such as these are a small way to educate  people about Islam and hopefully prevent protests at events, such as Texas Muslim Capitol Day in the future, Abdelghani said.

“We may not get all of UT to come out, but I think the people we do get to stop at the table — that’s one more person who knows, so that person can educate someone else,” Abdelghani said. “It’s kind of like a domino effect.”

Muslim students and community leaders walk away from the Capitol after a rally hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday morning. Thursday marked the eighth annual Muslim Capitol Day.
Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

State Rep. Molly White (R-Belton) drew criticism Thursday after asking Muslim visitors to the Capitol to “renounce Islamic terrorist groups” during an event UT students helped plan. 

About 600 people attended Muslim Capitol Day, an annual event hosted by the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to voice their legislative priorities and advocate for religious tolerance. 

Rep. White, who is out of town visiting her district, instructed her staff to tell Muslim visitors to publicly pledge allegiance to American law. 

“I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws,” White wrote in a public Facebook post. “We will see how long they stay in my office.” 

Government senior Usama Malik, vice president of UT’s Muslim Student Association, said Muslims should not have to work harder to prove their patriotism. 

“It’s kind of a double standard,” said Malik, who organized the event. “Seeing her comments [does] not really enrage us. It just shows us that we have a lot of work to do in this country, and that this attitude of having to apologize for the actions of others needs to end once and for all.”

Shiyam Galyon, who graduated from UT in 2012, traveled from Houston with the Syrian-American Council for the rally. Galyon said people of all religions should have the right to assemble and voice their opinions.

“When a group wants to organize for their rights, we want to support that,” Galyon said. 

While visitors from across Texas rallied for the seventh annual Muslim Capitol Day, protesters arrived holding signs with phrases such as, “Save America, Stop Islam,” and interrupted the rally speakers throughout the event. 

Rick Ellis, a protester at the rally from Axtell, Texas, said he thinks Muslims should not practice their religion in America.

“If they want to come as Americans, fine,” Ellis said. “If they want to come and live as Muslims, go back to the Middle East.”

Muslim Student Association President Rawand Abdelghani, psychology junior, said she was disappointed that the protesters interrupted the rally, which was meant to be peaceful.

“Most Muslims, especially the younger generation, were born in the U.S., and they consider themselves Americans and part of the community,” Abdelghani said. “It was meant to be an event that brought the community together and brought Muslims together, Muslims and non-Muslims.”

Malik, the event co-planner, said it is university students’ responsibility to address people’s ignorance about Islam. 

“It’s now imperative for us to take this to another level and defend Islam from these types of things,” Malik said. “Because we understand where the hatred is coming from and what the types of ignorance are — in light of this country’s history — and how to combat that.”

Salam Bhatti, attorney and stand-up comedian, spoke Thursday night at the TEDxSpeedwayPlaza event in the SAC Ballroom.

Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

TEDxSpeedwayPlaza, an independently organized TED event put together by UT students, took place Thursday evening in the SAC Ballroom. 

The TEDx event was meant to inspire viewers to make an impact on their world through change.

“Our tagline for this year is ‘inspiring change,’ so it kind of goes hand and hand with UT’s motto,” said government senior Usama Malik, who participated in organizing the event. 

The event consisted of seven speakers from across the U.S., including David Laude, chemistry professor and UT senior vice provost for enrollment and
graduation management. 

“We [gathered] people who are doing things in their community [and] in the real world to inspire that change that can then change the world,” Malik said. 

One of the speakers, Salam Bhatti, said he wanted to present so that young people viewing the broadcast would be more inclined to start positive development.

“I don’t say this as a cliché, but the youth is really growing to change the world,” Bhatti said. “It’s this idea of collaborating [and] finding support in places you wouldn’t expect that will help that world be changed. The world needs to know that there are people out there that won’t sit down when it comes to oppression, injustice and stereotypes.”

Texas Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Organization sponsored the event to share ongoing events and ideas that students and community members are concerned about, according to Malik. 

“A lot of the events we do are just for the organization, but we wanted to do something for everybody,” Malik said. “We wanted to take a step and do something on a platform that can resonate with all students regardless of faith or background. TED is a good outlet and platform, so during the summer we decided that it would be best to do a TED event, especially on the UT campus since the tagline for TED is ‘ideas worth sharing,’ and where better to go than the University?”

Hamaila Qureshi, nutrition senior who attended the event, enjoyed TED being on campus. 

“I’ve always loved TED talks,” Qureshi said. “I think they really do show a different perspective and send out a lot of new ideas, so I was really excited they were holding one here.”

Malik said that future TEDx events are currently being planned for the spring.

“[When we opened up ticket sales], 25 percent of our tickets went in four minutes, so we know that it’s a high in-demand event,” Malik said. “We definitely are for sure continuing it in the spring.”

In homage of 9/11 victims, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Organization (AMSO) held Muslims for Life, a blood drive, outside of the East Mall on Speedway on Tuesday afternoon.

AMSO hosted the blood drive as part of a week-long initiative to collect blood and clear up misconceptions about Muslims brought on by Islamic terrorists. 

AMSO has been hosting the Muslims for Life Blood Drive for three years as part of a nationwide effort of donating blood to people in need of a transfusion.

Usama Malik, government senior and president of AMSO, said he felt the blood drive would honor the lives of victims, and also teach students the true teachings of Islamic culture. 

“On Sept. 11, terrorists carrying the banner of Islam attacked the United States and took the lives of 3,000 innocent people,” Malik said. “Violence is not what Islamic culture is about — we believe in saving lives.” 

Malik said he hopes the blood drive will have raise awareness about terrorism as well as reduce the amount of hostility received by the Muslim community around the world. 

“After 9/11 our people were condemned by the actions of Islamic terrorists, and they are not a good representation of us,” Malik said. “They caused death, pain and terror, but we believe in love. What Muslims for Life hopes to accomplish is redress these horrible actions and save the lives of those that can be saved.” 

AMSO paired up with the Blood Center of Central Texas for the first five days of the drive. The last two days will be facilitated by Scott & White Blood Center.
Gina Sawyer, Scott & White donor service recruiter, said she was excited to be on the UT campus and collect blood donations. 

“Every pint saves three lives,” Sawyer said. “If we can get students to come out and donate blood it will be very helpful in cases of emergency.” 

Sawyer said that, although Scott & White pairs up with many organizations to collect donations, she was very fond of Muslims for Life’s cause. 

Ali Pasha, an economics senior and Muslims for Life volunteer, said he was happy to donate blood. He felt the events that happened on 9/11 united both American and Muslim cultures, but in the end the only course of action is for American Muslims to aid some of the damage. 

“What we have been doing for the past three years is centered on the victims, everything that we do is for them,” Pasha said. “We send our deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and we assure them that what occurred 12 years ago was not the true Islam.” 

History junior Nikolai Sankovich donates blood at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Organization’s on-campus blood drive Thurday evening. AMSO held this blood drive in response to the current persecutions of Shiite and Ahamadi Muslims in Pakistan. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Organization held an on-campus blood drive Thursday that will continue Friday in response to persecution of Shiite and Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.

The organization and a truck from the Blood Center of Central Texas will be located on Speedway, near Robert A. Welch Hall from noon to 5 p.m. The organization hopes to raise awareness for Shiite, Ahmadi and other persecuted religious minorities, said Usama Malik, president of the organization.

“With this blood drive, we’re going to save lives and promote the true message of Islam,” Malik said. “For students on campus, the objective is just to get them in the loop about it and to get them aware of what’s going on.”

There has been an increase in violence against minority Muslim groups in Pakistan in recent years, Malik said. 

The Ahmadis are a minority group in a Sunni-majority Pakistan that make up less than 0.5 percent of the population, according to the U.S. State Department. Following a declaration against Ahmadis by the Pakistani government for alleged heresy in 1974, harrassment of Ahmadiyya and Shiite groups has spiked. In May 2010, 86 members of the Ahmadiyya community were killed in Lahore, Pakistan. There have been multiple subsequent incidents of violence directed at the religious group.

Members of the organization explained the purpose of the blood drive to students and handed out pamphlets against terrorism. 

Pre-pharmacy sophomore Munaum Qureshi, an officer for the organization, scheduled appointments for students to donate blood. 

“We’re a relatively small organization, so as long as we can get our message out, I’m happy,” Qureshi said. 

Biology junior Neel Bhan picked up a pamphlet before heading into the truck to donate blood. He said the information he read was the first he heard about the persecutions in Pakistan. 

“I think it’s always important to be involved in stuff around the world,” Bhan said. “Sometimes we kind of enclose ourselves in a little private world of classes and whatnot, but there’s real stuff going on outside our campus bubble.” 

The overall goal for the blood drive is to raise awareness regarding ongoing religious persecution, Malik said.

“This blood drive is just kind of like a snapshot of a broader message to end persecution in general, whether it’s for Muslims, Christians or Jewish people. It has a wide spread message,” Malik said.

Freshmen Stephen Armstrong and Sergio Rodriguez participate in the blood drive hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Organization on Speedway Street Monday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

In an attempt to give back to the public and spread a peaceful image of Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Organization held a blood drive Monday on the eve of the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

The organization invited students to donate blood on campus and learn about the organization’s efforts to correct stereotypes about the Muslim community. The blood drive took place on Speedway near the McCombs School of Business and Gregory Gymnasium. The organization has been hosting blood drives since last year in an attempt to honor 9/11 victims by giving blood to save lives.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Organization President Usama Malik said this campaign is a peaceful and intellectual way to spread the message of Islam.

“Muslims for Life is a campaign that was started by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA last year on the 10th anniversary of the tragic Sept. 11 attacks,” Malik said. “This campaign was founded with the objective of promoting the true, peaceful message of Islam, condemning terrorism and saving lives.”

Since its inception in 1889, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has expanded across the United States, with student and non-student organizations located from Orlando, Fla., to Seattle, Wash. Its 1-year-old Muslims for Life campaign has encouraged its local chapters, including the one here at UT, to hold blood drives.

With the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Organization collecting 28 pints of blood and receiving help from 33 volunteers in the last drive, Malik said he and his fellow club members feel confident that the drive helps spread their message.

Andrea Lloyd, marketing manager of The Blood Center of Central Texas, which helped coordinate the event, said the blood center is enthusiastic about any time it can partner with student organizations that help their community.

“We are supportive of their desire to give back to the community in the form of blood donation,” Lloyd said.

After giving blood Monday, economics junior Julie Weltman said she agrees with the organization’s goals and motivations for hosting the blood drive.

“I think it is great that they are reaching out and helping people while trying to get a better [reputation] for the Muslim community. I don’t think it’s fair that we judge the Muslim community, and so I think what they are doing is a good act and worth noting.”

For those who haven’t attended, the next drive is set for next Monday, Sept. 17 from noon to 5 p.m. at the same location.

Phlebotomist Josh Crowley draws blood from human biology major Irtiza Sheikh during the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association blood drive Tuesday afternoon on Speedway. AMSA partnered with the Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas to donate blood, save lives and to promote peace.

Photo Credit: Mary Kang | Daily Texan Staff

With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaching, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association joined a national effort to improve the image of Muslims in America by sponsoring a blood drive on campus Tuesday.

In partnership with The Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas, AMSA members sought volunteers outside while medical technicians inside worked quickly to take blood from students hurrying between classes.

“The goal of the drive was to get around 20 people to donate blood, in about three hours,” said blood drive volunteer Michael Seager.

The drive went smoothly as medical technicians helped multiple students as others waited patiently at the back of the blood donation bus. The AMSA, which is not associated with the Muslim Students Association, is an organization with about 10 current members at UT. This was the largest blood drive yet for AMSA — they were able to meet their goal of 20 donors.

The UT group was not the only one collecting blood. Tuesday’s effort was one of 220 Ahmadiyya drives on college campuses and other locations throughout the country.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, an international Muslim organization that AMSA represents, was started in India in 1889 as a way to preach the fundamental ideas of the Ahmadiyya Community as well as remove misconceptions about Islam based on ignorance or willful discrimination, according to the AMSA website.

With these blood drives, the larger Ahmadiyya Community hopes to gather 10,000 bags of blood, said AMSA officer Usama Malik.

“Our goals are really to just promote peace, value the sanctity of life and raise awareness about Islam,” Malik said. “Of course with the 9/11 attacks you had terrorists rallying under Islam, and they tarnished the name of our religion. We want to work to undo that negative image.”

He said that with the 10-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaching, AMSA is working actively to fight against the negative stereotypes that resulted from the loss of life in 2001.

“Here, we want to show how Islam is committed to the mutual effort of saving lives in the act of giving blood and commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy on 9/11,” Malik said.

Freshman blood donor Angie Vital said she was impressed both by the efficiency of the drive and its outreach mission.

“If [AMSA] wants to work for a positive image I think they are doing the right thing,” Vital said. “Nothing works better than to reach out in a positive manner like this.”
Association members said they are planning another blood drive at the same location on Sept. 11.

Printed on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 as Muslim association organizes two September blood drives.