Some want to build a wall to keep them out. Others want to ban them entirely. For the Muslim members of UCF’s Ibrahim and Mariam organization, they just want to talk.
A registered student organization with about 15 members, according to KnightConnect, this is Ibrahim and Mariam’s first year on campus. Its goal? To promote peace, diversity and coexistence.
“That’s our main mission. It’s to build bridges of understanding between the Muslim students and other students on campus and beyond,” Adviser Bassem Chaaban said.
So far, the club has focused on outreach, tabling in front of the Student Union.
“Our topic one week was ‘Women in Islam,’” Vice President Noor Hashim said. “So we just had those few words on there and people came and wrote the first thing that came to mind and then we told them more about it.
“If you would’ve looked at the board, it was actually a lot of positive things. So we were glad to see that and just move away from negative thoughts people have or misconceptions.”
Named for Abraham and Mary, mother of Jesus, the club wanted to provide something different from other religious groups and invites people of all backgrounds to join the organization — something members hope will spark interfaith discussions and relationships.
One way they hope to do this is through fun social activities.
“So for this semester, for example, we have a girls soccer tournament and it’s an interfaith girls tournament,” said Hashim, a senior finance major. “Each team will have three girls and each [team] is required to have at least two different religions or faiths. So that’s another way of having people collaborate and have fun at the same time.”
President Hanan Elsayed added that the group has been collaborating with other faith-based organizations, such as Hillel, but wants to expand and reach more groups with different beliefs.
“We do know that there are many other clubs on campus that focus on their own religions or even provide for students who are a part of the religion, but we wanted to be able to get people together rather than everyone doing their own thing,” said Elsayed, a junior biomedical sciences major.
Club adviser Bassem Chaaban, also the director of outreach for the Islamic Society of Central Florida and a 2001 UCF graduate, sees Ibrahim and Mariam as a group that promotes peace, and those involved as peacemakers.
Bringing issues in the Muslim community to the attention of others is important, he said, because although it may not be happening in our community, it is happening in the world around us.
“We have still, as a human society around the world, not learned to deal with our problems in a way that is civic and civil, where we can really have a discourse in a respectful, civil manner,” Chaaban said.
Although no club members have personally experienced harassment or discrimination at UCF, Hanan and Elsayed believe diversity could be promoted more. Chabaan suggested it be incorporated into orientations and classes.
I think diversity shouldn’t be an elective. It shouldn’t just be something you do voluntarily. I think this should be mandated, where we truly teach our future leaders how to respect each other based on our differences,” Chaaban said. “Because the world is getting more global, whether we like it or not, you’re going to deal with people you don’t see eye to eye with.”
As for the future of Ibrahim and Mariam, Elsayed sees the RSO becoming a national organization.
“When you have a generation of college students who learn to accept, understand and have a peaceful dialogue, and they grow up to be the leaders that they’re learning to be,” Elsayed said. “[That is what creates], hopefully, a more peaceful world.”
Shaquirah Jackson is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.