Last Friday and Saturday, the Yale Muslim Students Association held its annual Ivy Muslim Conference, which brings together hundreds of Muslim students from across the northeast for a weekend of networking, fellowship and unique conversations about the intellectual and spiritual opportunities as well as challenges of being Muslim today.
Over 200 students traveled to Yale for the conference. Attendees participated in workshops about Muslim life and were addressed by two keynote speakers: Shaykha Ieasha Prime, a Muslim scholar and activist who spoke at the Yale Women’s March, and Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni coffee businessman. The Ivy Muslim Conference is just one aspect of the Muslim Student Association’s efforts to foster a community for Muslims at Yale.
“We received over 200 ticket purchases, which was an unprecedentedly large number,” said Mehdi Baqri ’21, Political Chair of the Muslim Students Association. “Thanks to big-hearted volunteers, we were able to house and feed them all with no complaints.”
This weekend marked the 11th annual conference. Yale Director of Muslim Life Omer Bajwa and his wife Lisa Kinney-Bajwa first hosted an iteration of the event when both were employed at Cornell University. But they began hosting the conference in New Haven once they moved to Yale in 2008. The board of the Muslim Students Association, along with Abdul-Rehman Malik, a postgraduate associate at the Yale MacMillan Center Council on Middle Eastern Studies, organized the conference throughout the year.
The conference began with social events and communal meals before two main workshops: “Changemaker Career Journeys” and “The State of the Ummah.” Student organizers in the Muslim Students Association organized events for the conference and coordinated with the two keynote speakers.
Nazar Chowdhury ’20, former president of the Muslim Students Association, noted that he was particularly moved by the question and answer session with Prime, where he said that students felt comfortable asking personal questions about Prime’s faith, including her conversion. He said that when Prime led a prayer at the end of the conference, many participants were deeply moved.
“It was really interesting to hear from Prime about so many aspects of what we consider activism and how Muslims can mobilize from it,” said Yousof Omeish ’22, a first-year liaison for the MSA. “The speaker is also a really prominent community member back home, so it was cool to hear from her in this new context.”
The Muslim Students Association’s next event is its annual Islam Awareness Week — which will take place at the end of March — when the group will host numerous speakers and events to celebrate and educate the greater community about Islam.
Planned events include “Muslim Monologues,” an outlet for Muslims to present their lived experiences with their faith; a fast in solidarity with people in Yemen facing starvation and thirst; and “Tales of Tragedy,” which Baqri described as “exploring the intersections of social justice, identity, and tragedy in a Muslim and global context.”
“Being Muslim at Yale is about navigating through an often alienating world while staying true to the values in your heart that bring you peace,” Baqri said. “We have a small but wonderfully loving and open community and this love is reciprocated by the Yale community as well.’
Chowdhury and Omeish stressed that people who are not members of the Muslim community should not feel as though they cannot attend Islam Awareness Week’s events, dinners or prayer sessions.
“All of our programs are open to the Yale community and we would love for as many people to participate as possible, hand in hand with us,” said Baqri.
On Friday at 5 p.m. in the Dwight Hall Common room, the Muslim Students Association will host spoken word poet Youssef Kromah and scholar Mustafa Briggs for a presentation on black history in Islam in honor of Black History Month.
Helena Lyng-Olsen | firstname.lastname@example.org