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The Muslim Students' Association, or Muslim Student Union, of the U.S. and Canada, also known as MSA National, is a religious organization dedicated to establishing and maintaining Islamic societies on college campuses in Canada and the United States. It serves to provide coordination and support for affiliated MSA chapters in colleges across North America. Established in 1963, the organization now has chapters in colleges across the continent[1], and is the precursor of the Islamic Society of North America and several other Islamic organizations.



The Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada is also known as MSA National. It is an umbrella organization for all of affiliated chapters at various campuses across the continent. Local chapters are only loosely connected with the parent institution, and often take different names, such as "Islamic Students Association", or "Muslim Discussion Group". Not all campus Muslim groups are necessarily affiliated with MSA National.

A woman, Hadia Mubarak, served as president of the MSA of the United States and Canada from 2004 to 2005.[2]

There is no fixed hierarchy between MSA National and local chapters; as such, the policies and views of the national organization are not necessarily shared by local chapters. The United States and Canada is divided into five zones, three in the US and two in Canada. Each zone has a zonal representative, chosen by the members of the affiliated chapters within that zone. Chapters make up regional councils.


The first MSA National chapter was formed in 1963 at the campus of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) by international students.[2][3][4] The initial leadership came from Arabic-speaking members,[4] with the Muslim Brotherhood help to establish of the group.[5][6] A Saudi Arabian charity, the Muslim World League, provided early funding for the group.[7] Early goals for the movement included the promotion of "a self-definition [that] involves initially and fundamentally [an] Islamic identity" of its members, as well as an appropriate Islamic lifestyle while they were in the US.[2]

With time, MSA groups became more interested in seeking how to integrate and instutionalize Islam and Islamic culture into American life. Current issues such as the position of women in Islam and problems in the Islamic countries began to be debated.[2] The groups proved important as mobilizers in developing increasing Muslim political activity in the United States.[4] Student leaders, as these graduated, went on to form the Islamic Society of North America.[4][2] From the 1960s onwards, the MSA engaged in educational activities, including the translation and publishing of works by major Islamic scholars. In 1966 MSA founded the Islamic Book Service, to distribute magazines and books. In addition, books about Islam were distributed on campuses to both Muslims and non-Muslims.[2] In the 1970s, a fiqh, or legal council was established by MSA; initially the fiqh rendered opinions on minor issues such as the start of Ramadan. By 1988, however, it was making decrees on a broad range of religious and social issues.[2]


Today, the organization is present in various forms on several campuses across the United States and Canada.[7] In contrast to early membership, members are now frequently American-born Muslims.[2] The groups are funded by campus students as well as the university to which it belongs.[8] Activities include prayer times, lectures, discussion, and social events, and seek to unify Muslim students from different cultural backgrounds.[2] MSAs host "Islamic Awareness Week" activities to educate students about Islam.[2] At a campus level, groups lobby universities for recognition of Islamic holidays and prayer times, the availability and size of prayer rooms and for the provision of religiously permitted food on campus.[2] MSAs engaged in various charitable activities. They raise funds through events known as "Fast-A-Thons", which originated at the University of Tennessee.[citation needed] The MSA launched a "Peace...not Prejudice" campaign to dispel stereotypes and paint Islam in a positive light. [9]


Journalist Deborah Scroggins, in exploring how suspected al-Qaeda member Aafia Siddiqui became an Islamist extremist, wrote for Vogue that if Siddiqui "was drawn into terrorism, it may have been through the contacts and friendships she made in the early 1990s working for MIT's Muslim Students Association. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world's oldest and biggest Islamist movement, established the first MSAs in the country... and the movement's ideology continued to influence the MSA long after that. At MIT, several of the MSA's most active members had fallen under the spell of Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brother who was Osama bin Laden's mentor.... [Azzam] had established the Al Kifah Refugee Center to function as its worldwide recruiting post, propaganda office, and fund-raising center for the mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan... It would become the nucleus of the al-Qaeda organization."[10]

Rutgers MSA co-founder Ramzi Yousef, a cousin of Siddiqui's second husband, is currently imprisoned for helping plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[11]

Ali Asad Chandia, who was president of the MSA at Montgomery College from 1998 to 1999,[12] was convicted of providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terrorist organization, and assisting the Virginia Jihad Network,[12] and sentenced to 15 years in prison.[13][14]

See also


  1. ^ List of MSA chapter websites
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Abdo, Geneive. Mecca and Main Street: Muslim life in America after 9/11. Oxford University Press. pp. 194-198. Retrieved 2010-03-12. 
  3. ^ Medhi Bozorgmehr; Bakalian, Anny P.; Bozorgmehr, Mehdi (2009). Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim American respond. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 102. ISBN 0-520-25734-0. 
  4. ^ a b c d Leonard, Karen (2003). Muslims in the United States: the state of research. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. pp. 12, 17, 90. ISBN 0-87154-530-6. 
  5. ^ Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Sam Roe and Laurie Cohen (September 19, 2004). "A rare look at secretive Brotherhood in America". Chicago Tribune.,0,4605917,full.story. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  6. ^ John Mintz and Douglas Farah (September 11, 2004). "In Search Of Friends Among The Foes". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  7. ^ a b El Horr, Jane; Saeed, Sana (June 20, 2008). "Campus Radicals: A New Muslim Student Group Tries to Rouse the Moderates". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 13, 2010. 
  8. ^ For Muslim Students, a Debate on Inclusion - New York Times
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Scroggins, Deborah, The Most Wanted Woman in the World, Vogue, March 1, 2005
  11. ^ The Wall Street Journal
  12. ^ a b Terrorism suspect released on bond Diamondback Online
  13. ^ Teacher at College Park school sentenced for aiding terrorists Gazette, Maryland Community Newspapers Online
  14. ^ Hardball Tactics in an Era of Threats The Washington Post

External links


United States Campus Chapters

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Canada Campus Chapters

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