CALIFORNIA, Feb 12 — Created a year ago at the University of Texas, the US first Muslim fraternity is gaining national attention as two chapters have been created at the University of California, San Diego and Cornell, and plans are being made to establish chapters at Pennsylvania, San Diego and the University of Florida.
“Companions are very valuable in Islam,” Haroon Masood, who is majoring in neuroscience and physiology, told the New York Times in an article published Sunday. “They keep you in check. We believe your character is strongly influenced by who you hang out with.”
Deemed America’s first Muslim Fraternity, Alpha Lambda Mu was established in February, 2013, at the University of Texas. Alpha Lambda Mu, which stands for Alif Laam Meem, three letters that start several chapters of the Quran, was founded by Ali Mahmoud, a junior biology and sociology major at the University of Texas, Dallas, as a national fraternity for Muslim college students.
A total of 24 members now make up the Texas chapter. A year after the first chapter was formed, Texas chapter set off in November on a wilderness retreat, with canoeing and cozy campfires on which to roast halal marshmallows, and an imam for lectures and prayers. The new Cornell chapter, which has eight members, has also hosted an all-night party in November which was held in accordance with Islamic teachings. The men-only party was alcohol free as around two dozen men prayed together, downed pizza, played games and crashed in sleeping bags on the floor of the event room the university had lent them.
Members of the San Diego chapter, which started up in the fall, meet twice a month in one another’s apartments to discuss spiritual texts, and they try to gather for at least one of the day’s five calls to prayer. The idea is still gaining attention as students at Penn State, San Diego State and the University of Florida are hoping to start chapters in the fall.With this sense of brotherhood, the fraternity hopes to one day grant its members the networking opportunities that every other fraternity provides.
The formation of a fraternity represents a really thoughtful reflection on their part,” Dr. Lori Peek, the author of “Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11”, said. “It moves these students out of the private sphere and into a more public space where they are effectively spanning two cultures.” Brian Calfano, an associate professor of political science at Missouri State University who has conducted extensive research on Islamic and American identities agreed. “The fraternity itself is a hallmark of the modern American college experience,” he said.
“In other words, these students are saying: ‘We want to live out our identity. We want to be protected within our group. But we also want to exercise our capacity to enjoy our college life.’”Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States. Two reports by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies indicate that an evolution has indeed occurred. In 2009, 40 percent of Muslim Americans ages 18 to 29 said they were thriving, the lowest percentage in that age group. By 2011, 10 years after the terrorist attacks, that number had risen to 65 percent.—IINA