The Muslim Students Association of Michigan State University (MSA MSU) is one of the more-than-150 affiliated campus chapters of the national MSA. This chapter describes itself as “a family of brothers and sisters in Islam” that strives to “bring people together for the sake of God”; “educate both Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam”; and “wipe away negative stereotypes about the beautiful religion.”
The MSA MSU website provides a link to sources explaining that “Islam is an Arabic Word which means peace, purity, acceptance and commitment”; that “[a] Muslim is one who … works towards the establishment of a just and equitable social order which would totally reflect the guidance of God” [i.e., a society ruled by Sharia law; that the Prophet Muhammad “obliges the Muslims to follow his exemplary life in every way”; that “[c]omprehensive teachings on which sound systems of social justice, economics, politics, legislation, jurisprudence, law and international relations can be built, are important contents of the Holy Quran”; that Islam countenances “[n]o discrimination [against women] … on the basis of sex”; that jihad means “struggle,” and “consists in exerting oneself to the utmost in order to personally follow the teachings of Islam”; that “Islam, over the last 1400 years, has shown in practice how racism can be ended”; and that “Islam nourishes human unselfishness, generosity and love in a well organized family system.”
In April 2006, MSA MSU members held a rally protesting a Danish newspaper’s then-recent publication of a series of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. According to the group, the cartoons in question constituted “hate speech.” In response to this protest, a Michigan State professor named Indrek Wichman sent an e-mail to MSA MSU, asserting that he was “offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane [Muslim-perpetrated] things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests …, burnings of Christian churches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called ‘whores’ in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris, France.”
MSA MSU responded to Wichman by demanding, along with twelve other student and advocacy groups, not only that the MSU administration reprimand the professor, but also that it institute mandatory diversity training for faculty and a seminar on hate and discrimination for freshmen. Six months later Michigan State University, after lengthy negotiations with the MSA and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, announced that it would offer non-mandatory diversity training — including an Islamic awareness workshop facilitated by MSA MSU — for its faculty and student body. Said Paulette Granberry Russell, director of MSU’s Office for Affirmative Action Compliance and Monitoring: “We’re working with the MSA to identify the things that they want to discuss. Then we’re going to use those ideas as a basis for developing educational programs.”
In August 2007, pressure from MSA MSU resulted in a decision by the University of Michigan to spend $25,000 to install foot baths for Muslim students in its campus restrooms. Maweza Razzaq, then-president of MSA MSU, said that having access to the foot baths would help Muslim students feel more comfortable about practicing their ritual washing (of feet, hands, face and forearms) before praying.