The Muslim Students Association at the University of Michigan (MSA UM) has chapters on both the Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses. The organization “works for the betterment of the Muslim and Non-Muslim community on campus through community service, education, and social activities”; holds “weekly gatherings educating the audience on contemporary issues, cultural issues, historical recounts and stereotypes of Islam and much more”; and claims that “misconceptions and misrepresentations of Islam are most often the result of a lack of knowledge on the part of non-Muslims and reluctance on the part of Muslims to explain their faith.”
In 2008, the MSA UM website (for both the Ann Arbor and Dearborn chapters) featured an “About Islam” section that addressed a number of important issues about the religion and its history. It praised, for example, “the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam” — in stark contradiction to the fact that the faith actually was spread by violent force.
Moreover, the website depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a man “known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity,” as well as a “calm and meditative” disposition. But as Islam scholar Robert Spencer points out, Muhammad was in fact “a man of war” who commanded his followers “to take up arms” and “fought in numerous battles” himself. Equally disingenuous, the “About Islam” webpage made no mention of jihad and its long tradition of bloody conquest.
In October 2002, MSA UM co-sponsored a conference calling for the U.S. government to discontinue its aid to Israel, on grounds that the Jewish state was allegedly guilty of human-rights violations against the Palestinian people.
Also in 2002, MSA UM co-hosted the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s Second National Student Conference. The featured the guest speaker, Sami al-Arian, was then awaiting trial on terrorism-related charges for his affiliation with Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In November 2003, MSA UM co-sponsored the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s Third National Student Conference, at Ohio State University. This event encouraged its attendees to pressure university administrations nationwide to withdraw any investments they may have held in companies that conducted business with the Israeli government or army. Among the event’s co-sponsors were various chapters of ActionLA, Al-Awda, the Al-Bireh Palestine Society, the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, BADIL, Code Pink, the Committee for Justice in Palestine, Duke Divest, the Institute for Policy Studies, Jews Against the Occupation, Jews for a Free Palestine, Left Turn, MADRE, Malia-Collective of Italian American Women, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Friends of Sabeel, and SUSTAIN.
In recent years, both the Ann Arbor and Dearborn chapters of MSA UM have participated — 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 2006, as the Israeli army was engaged in a military conflict against Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon, MSA UM sponsored a rally protesting the Jewish state’s allegedly unjustified, unprovoked aggression. That same year, the organization signed a resolution in support of divestment from Israel.
In July 2007 it was reported that the University of Michigan at Dearborn, as a result of pressure from its campus MSA, was planning to build foot baths — at a cost of $25,000 apiece — for Muslim students who wished to practice the ritual washing of their feet before praying on campus.
In February 2008, The Detroit News reported that a coalition of sixteen University of Michigan students — including members of both MSA UM and the Jewish student organization Hillel — was preparing to travel to New Orleans on a collaborative Jewish-Muslim Hurricane Katrina relief effort. The trip was organized jointly by Michael Brooks, executive director of the University of Michigan’s Hillel chapter; Nathan Martin, Hillel’s UM campus rabbi; and Imam Mohammed Mardini of the American Muslim Center of Dearborn, Michigan. As journalist Debbie Schlussel reported, Mardini, a fervent ally of Hamas and Hezbollah, has participated actively in Michigan events sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In January 2010, MSA UM sponsored a “Know Your Rights” meeting where the head of the FBI’s Detroit field office spoke alongside Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR’s Michigan chapter, who had been extremely critical of the FBI’s post-9/11 dealings with Muslims. On previous occasions, Walid had stated that the FBI artificially manufactures “terrorism suspects to give the appearance that [the Bureau is] actually doing something tangible in the so called ‘War on Terrorism'”; charged the FBI with “going into mosques on fishing expeditions and basically cultivating and inciting people towards extremism”; falsely asserted that no Muslim who was an American citizen had ever engaged in terrorism in the U.S.; and expressed doubts that the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. “Know Your Rights” events such as this typically promote the notion that Muslims should never talk to the FBI without a lawyer.
In March 2011, MSA UM co-sponsored an event where guest speaker Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, (a) seemed to blame Melvin Bledsoe — rather than the Islamic faith — for the actions of his son Carlos, who had shot and killed an American Army private after converting to Islam and becoming radicalized; (b) charged that a Somali-American who had been critical of organized Islamist groups was seeking only to “diss” the Muslim community in Minneapolis; and (c) accused Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix physician who challenged the Islamist narrative, of simply trying to make a profit for himself.