Founded in 1994, the Muslim Students Association of Emory University (MSA EU) has participated numerous times — along with more than 250 fellow Muslim organizations (mostly chapters of the MSA) — in the annual “Ramadan Fast-a-Thon,” where students eat nothing from sunrise to sundown on one designated day each year. The purpose of this event — which was initiated shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — is twofold: to “raise money for the hungry and poor,” and to help Americans “increase” their “understanding” of Muslims’ good intentions. Such notables as Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah, Sheikh Abdullah Idris Ali, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf have endorsed the Fast-a-Thon.
In response to an alleged spike in acts of anti-Arab and anti-Islamic bigotry in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, MSA EU signed a petition emphasizing that “this act of terror in no way represents the principles of the Islamic faith.”
In the wake of the July/August 2006 Israel-Lebanon war (which was sparked when Hezbollah terrorists simultaneously fired rockets at Israeli border towns and carried out a missile attack on two armored security vehicles inside Israel), the MSA EU website lamented that Israel’s military actions had caused “the devastation of the Lebanese people”; a steep rise in Lebanon’s infant mortality rate and unemployment rate; “the destruction of about 35,000 homes and businesses”; the demolition of “about one-fourth of the nation’s bridges”; and economic losses exceeding $15 billion. No mention was made of the Hezbollah aggression that had caused Israel to respond militarily.
In November 2007, MSA EU held its annual “Islamic Awareness Week” to “address issues of Muslim political activism in the U.S.”; “explore the relationships Islam has with other faiths”; discuss “issues of women’s rights and the place of Islam in America”; “demonstrate[e] … the magnificence of yesterday’s Islam”; and identify “the misunderstandings that plague today’s Islam.”
That same month, MSA EU president Ameer Shaikh wrote a column in the Emory Wheel (the university’s student newspaper) titled “Islam’s Glorious History,” which stated: “As Europe slept through its dark ages, Islam and its civilization were busy redescribing humanity. Muslims, from the seventh century until their expulsion from Spain in 1503, were civilization: No other existed.” Silent regarding the fact that Muslims initially had arrived in Spain as a result of an 8th-century invasion in which they conquered nearly the entire Iberian peninsula, Shaikh compared early Islamic civilization favorably to its European counterpart, particularly with regard to women’s rights:
“Muslims were the pioneers of almost all fields of science and humanities…. Islamic civilization was devoid of anti-Semitism and the Inquisition…. It was Islamic law which granted women the right to inheritance in 632. It was Islam in the 13th century whose jurisprudence dictated that women be equal witnesses to men in the courts of law.”
In Shaikh’s calculus, all negative portrayals of Muslims today are the result of “Orientalist attacks upon Islam” that “exul[t] in displaying [it] in as negative a light as possible.” Blaming “the imperial policies of Europeans” for “destroying the social and ethical fabric of Muslim societies,” Shaikh lauds modern-day Muslims for “working diligently to recreate the mosaic of civilizations they formed so long ago.”