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Muslim Student Alliance’s Skating Boots Slide Into Fresh Ice

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

The Muslim Students Association poses for a group photo. Friday, January 27, 2023.  Alexis McMurtry, Assistant Photo Editor

For their debut event of the year, UTC’s Muslim Student Association met off-campus with several friends for a fun trip to a local skating rink Friday night. Despite the troubles of the past semester, members left their sneakers and concerns at the gate.

Under soft, suspended lights, MSA members circled in laps and occasionally leaned against the waist-high wall, letting friction stop them. 

Karis Caruso, a newly-committed Muslim, enjoyed his time skating with the others. MSA’s President Rizwaan Abdul Kadir and member Kaitlyn Simpson helped him take his Shahada, which is an Islamic oath.

“I just feel like I am one of them,” Caruso said after several laps on ice. “Not everyone sees eye-to-eye on certain things, but I feel like everyone tries to understand each other...”

Noah Smith, another member, wiped out a few times, but his smile never faded. Nearby, an “ice patrol” woman spun around, mainly checking on fallen kids whose ambitions outpaced their hand-eye coordination. To their credit, no MSA member relied on the training walker skates.

Roughly fifteen minutes into his skating time, Hussam Abubakr walked on his bladed-boots back to the outdoor seating. Abubakr felt that the Muslim Student Alliance had no on-campus substitute.

“It’s nice to have Muslim friends who had similar childhood experiences,” Abubakr mentioned while relacing his skates. “Everyone comes from a different background, different culture, but there’s a lot of similarities.”

Two relatively new members– by just a few weeks and a few months–Dana Al-Ahmad and Ghaydaa Alrifai praised the event. They spent much of their hour on ice together, sliding around crowds of joyful people. 

“I feel like [MSA] is so good, other people learn about Islam,” Al-Ahmad said. “There’s non-Muslims who joined. 

MSA intuitively sold tickets at a markup, enabling the event to serve as both a community-building activity and fundraiser. The group plans to use the funds to table in the University Center with student incentives, thereby spreading awareness of their group.

As much fun as the group had, they also remain committed to their mission. Many people practicing a minority religion, especially Islam, often face unfair prejudice and stereotypes. 

“I’m as American as you, I was born in the hospital down the road,” Kadir said. “Most of my friends love me, but they didn’t like Muslims. They couldn’t process the fact that I’m Muslim.”

During the Mahsa Amini protests, two professors hosted an event to raise awareness, but one professor’s original choice of words offended Muslim participants. On Nov. 14,  2022, MSA’s leadership published an open letter regarding the incident.

“...we condemn the Iranian Regime for the death of the innocent Mahsa Amini and Islamically consider it a genocide,” the letter, signed by fourteen students reads. “The tone in [the professor’s] voice, the emotion he had, and the word choices all combined, intentionally or unintentionally, reinforced the hate against Muslims.”

Following the ice skating event, Abdul Kadir emailed the Echo an update of the situation.

“Last semester, several of our members felt discomfort and offended by the choice of words used in a presentation regarding Iran,” MSA’s President Abdul Kadir wrote, before explaining that the aforementioned professor and MSA “...have decided to have a future discussion regarding Islam and politics to better create awareness and distinction in the UTC community. 

Additionally, they require different accommodations compared to Chattanooga’s predominant religions. After the departure of UPD’s Mediterranean Food from the University Center, MSA banded together and offered creative ideas for Aramark to provide Halal meat. The departure and the importance of the Halal meat is explained here.

More information regarding the Muslim Student Association may be found through MocSync.

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