As the winter break came to an end and the campuses started to come back to life we resumed our usual activities at each location. The new year was filled with all kinds of uncertainty with the then incoming new President and what that would mean for our communities in general and students in particular.
That meant that all kinds of things have been covered in study circles so far this year. At times there were more serious conversations around academic articles, poems, and hadith collections and methodology. At other times there were open conversations and one-off events that replaced the usual study circles. These events included watching a documentary and leading a discussion on climate change, Shaykha Muslema speaking at Islam Awareness Week at USC, and Shaykh Jamaal joining a discussion on immigration at Immigration Awareness Week at UCI.
As for office hours, they have continued as usual with the standard ebbs and flows of each week. Many have asked how the recent events have affected office hours. The truth is that in many ways they are the same. The need is still there and students are still taking advantage of it. The pressures that are coming from the outside are manifesting themselves indirectly more than directly at this point. There is increased pressure, stress, concern, and overall worry, but those are not the individual issues that bring the students to office hours, although they certainly affect everyone’s well being.
Outside of office hours there were all kinds of events that happened in this first quarter of the year. The year started off with both Shaykh Jamaal and Shaykha Muslema attending the annual MSA West Conference. This year it was held at UCR and the school and MSA did an amazing job hosting everyone. It was uplifting as always to see so many students from all over the West Coast come together and network. Other than that Shaykha Muslema spoke on a panel at UCLA regarding campus climate during the current presidential term. Other members of the UCLA community and administration joined her and it was well received. She also attended the annual Pearls of the Quran Conference in the Washington, D.C. area. The conference was attended by many leading scholars and thinkers from the Muslim American community. On campuses she spoke at Islam Awareness Week at both USC and the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Shaykh Jamaal had a busy first quarter as well. He was interviewed by three different groups of people. One was with Shaykh Junaid Kharsany and his widely listened-to radio station in South Africa on the work that we are doing in the IOK Chaplaincy Initiative. Another was with a graduate student at USC who was doing research for her work in Gerontology on how different faiths look at aging and the elderly. The third was with a couple of graduate students from Europe who are here doing research on Islam and Muslims in Los Angeles. He also attended the quarterly Chaplains Council meeting at UCLA where the chaplains discussed the challenges of the current environment and how they can support one another. Towards the middle of the first quarter he had the privilege of returning to his alma mater and serving the university students in San Diego at a joint qiyam for brothers between UCSD and SDSU held at the Islamic Center of San Diego. A good group of brothers attended and he presented on the topic of manliness and how it relates to their college lives. The immigration ban that was briefly enacted against a number of Muslim majority countries also sparked a couple of events at different campuses. One of them was a panel at USC discussing the issue and how it directly affects students there. The other one was a more general and informal event bringing together immigrants from different backgrounds to share experiences with one another and understand one another more deeply at UCI during their Immigrant Awareness Week. Lastly, outside of the campuses there were two major events that Shaykh Jamaal took part in during this period. The first was a day seminar on Sharia that was hosted locally by the Council of Islamic Scholars. Shaykh Jamaal was specifically tasked with speaking about Sharia in America. He also attended a training that CAIR-Greater Los Angeles offered to community leaders on practical skills that we all need in our work. He was able to attend for half of the program and sit through sessions on messaging/public relations and community organizing.
As we move through the first quarter of the year summer fast approaches. The students at USC will be finishing up their school year in the beginning of May and the UCs will continue into the first couple of weeks of Ramadan in mid-June. We ask that everyone keep us and the students in their prayers.