In the month before their “most social time of the year” — the holy month of Ramadan — members of the Muslim Students Association invited fellow students to learn about Muslim life on campus.
The group’s second annual “Meet and Greet,” held Wednesday in the Saybrook Common Room, was intended to “let everyone know there are Muslims on campus,” MSA Vice President Arafat Razzaque ’06 said.
“Most of our events are among the Muslim community only, and [the board felt it was] necessary to have an event to reach out to the whole Yale community,” Razzaque said. “The board decided, why not just have an event where we can give everyone at Yale a chance to eat pizza and hang out with Muslims.”
Over 30 people attended the gathering, including undergraduates, graduate and professional school students, and several University of Connecticut students.
MSA President Gul Raza ’06 said she was “so happy with the crowd that turned out,” even though the MSA “didn’t do the greatest job with publicity.”
The event, which was scheduled at the beginning of last spring, also conflicted with the first evening of the Jewish High Holy Days.
The “Meet and Greet” was nearly “back to back” with Ramadan, a month of fasting that begins this year in the middle of October, Razzaque said. Ramadan is a social time, he said, because MSA members gather each day to pray and break their fast.
The Muslim student population at Yale seems to be growing, Razzaque and MSA Social Action Chair Fatema Al-Arayedh ’07 said.
“There are a lot of Muslim freshmen this year,” Razzaque said. There are at least 19 in the Class of 2008, Al-Arayedh said.
But there are still fewer than 100 Muslim students in the undergraduate population, Raza said.
“[It’s] only in recent years that we’ve come to be a notable campus presence,” Raza said.
The MSA’s room, located in the basement of Bingham Hall, is “kind of secluded,” Razzaque said, so the board places importance on visible outreach efforts.
Al-Arayedh said the high point of last year’s event had been the diverse turnout. Students came “out of curiosity” about what it is like to be Muslim, she said.
The number of non-Muslims who attended last year’s event convinced the MSA board that the “Meet and Greet” should be an annual event, Razzaque said. He said attitudes toward Muslim students on campus are “definitely improving” as the community becomes more visible.
Zahreen Ghaznavi ’08, a Muslim student who attended the “Meet and Greet,” said most of the non-Muslim Yalies she has met “want to learn more about Islam.”
“Everyone here is so accepting,” Ghaznavi said.
The MSA is planning this year to host its Ramadan dinner in the Omni Hotel and hopes to have “as many masters and deans as possible” as guests, Raza said.