The Muslim Students Association of the University of Pennsylvania (MSA UP) was established in 1963 and, according to its own self-description, “has ever since been serving the needs of the Muslims at Penn, as well as the Penn and Philadelphia community in general.” An affiliated chapter of the national Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada, MSA UP boasts a $50,000 annual budget, of which $20,000 is derived from student fees.
In November 2001, MSA UP sponsored a talk — titled “Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad: Prophets with a Common Message” — delivered by Shaikh Ibrahim Memon, a Buffalo, New York-based imam affiliated with a secretive Islamic training facility (in Buffalo) probably owned by the Islamic Society of North America. According to a Buffalo Common Council member, the people at this facility were “armed and dangerous” and were “holding paramilitary exercises there.”
In early October 2003, MSA UP’s annual “Islam Awareness Week” was keynoted by William W. Baker, founder/director of Christians and Muslims for Peace and a former chairman of the Populist Party. The Populist Party was an initiative of Willis Carto, a neo-Nazi figure who founded the Institute for Historical Review (a group devoted to Holocaust denial) and published America’s foremost anti-Semitic newspaper, The SPOTLIGHT (now reorganized as the American Free Press). (Click here for details of Baker’s long anti-Semitic track-record.) When Daily Pennsylvanian reporter Margherita Ghiselli asked MSA UP president Muhammad Mekki to comment on Baker’s neo-Nazi connections, Mekki replied that “the speaker’s alleged anti-Semitic position” was “irrelevant to the discussion.”
In September 2005, MSA UP provided a forum for the British journalist and Muslim convert Yvonne Ridley, who supports the elimination of Israel and has expressed her admiration for some notable Muslim terrorists, to address University of Pennsylvania students on the topic of Islam.
MSA UP has participated several 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 2007, MSA UP scheduled its yearly “Islam Awareness Week” for October 21-27, so it would coincide directly with the Terrorism Awareness Project’s Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week (IFAW) activities. MSA UP falsely depicted IFAW, whose purpose was to educate American college students about the nature of the fanatical religious movement aiming to create a global Muslim empire, as an exercise in anti-Muslim bigotry. As for MSA UP’s Islam Awareness Week, it included such presentations as:
Islamic Comedy Night — “Allah Made Me Funny”: According to MSA UP’s promotional literature, comedian Azhar Usman sought “to engage the audience and address issues and stereotypes pertaining to Islam through a stand-up comedy skit.”
Jihad, Terrorism and Reconciling Muslim Identity in the West: MSA UP explained that this forum would “discuss the issue of a collective Islamic identity, and the need for adaptation to the misconceptions about Jihad and Terrorism in Islam, with contrast to Western Society.” The objective was to characterize jihad as chiefly a battle of an internal, spiritual nature, rather than as a permanent war of conquest whose ultimate aim is to achieve Islam’s dominion over the entire world.
During Islam Awareness Week 2008, which was co-sponsored by MSA UP, Harvard chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser sought to “wash away misconceptions some share about Islam.”
In March 2008, eleven members of MSA UP participated in an “interfaith” trip to New Orleans — funded by a $17,000 grant from the Fox Leadership program — with eleven members of the University Of Pennsylvania’s Hillel organization. A rabbi, a Muslim chaplain, and a Religious Studies graduate student also went on the trip, and the controversial “community organization” ACORN played a role in the event as well. According to MSA UP’s social-development chairman Naveed Rashid, “The trip was a collaboration between Hillel and the Muslim Students Association with the dual purpose of serving the community and strengthening the relationship between the two faiths.” By contrast, the Militant Islam Monitor described the trip as an exercise in moral relativism, where participants examined “troubling passages from the Koran and the Old Testament” as well as the mass media’s depictions of religion.
MSA UP strongly opposes the Patriot Act anti-terrorism legislation. At one MSA-sponsored rally on the University of Pennsylvania campus, the co-chair of Muslims for Justice lamented that “the Patriot Act is sending us in a backwards spiral, where the destination is chaos.”