This is posted on behalf of a friend of mine who is active in the MSA in my city:
As a concerned Muslim student and local MSA leader, I hear all this talk going on about the current state of MSA National here, here, and here , and I'm a bit worried. Worried enough to do something. You see, we can't treat MSA National as just any other Islamic organization. It already has a niche in the market with the college students across North America. Practically any college you can name has a local MSA chapter to go along with it, but most of these local MSAs are completely isolated from their umbrella organization. Some may not even know such a thing as MSA National exists, and others may be vaguely familiar or affiliated with the organization, but only a handful of local MSAs actually do some real collaboration with them. The problem is: seemingly nobody knows what exactly MSA National is really there for.
As one of the oldest Muslim organizations in the country, MSA National has gone through many phases. It used to help facilitate easy access to da'wah materials for all the local chapters, but it seems like WhyIslam has the MSAs covered now. MSA National was really good about politically vocalizing the concerns of the Muslim students in key issues such as the imām Jamil al-āmīn case and the anti-war cause (building up to the invasion of Iraq), but CAIR and MAS, amongst others, seem to be doing a better job with those issues these days. Now with the rise of such innovative programs as Al-Maghrib and Bayyinah Academy, amongst many others, even MSA National's annual conferences might become quite trite to the average student of knowledge. So is there anything left?
Plenty. MSA National still has that niche in the market for Muslim students as we mentioned before, whereas all these other organizations serve the broader Muslim community. And I'm not mentioning “niche” in the limited sense in that only MSA National can help Muslim students figure out how they can get access to a peaceful place to pray on campus or petition for some kosher/halal food to be provided with their meal plans, no. What I really mean is that none of these other organizations really have the potential to reach every single member of this rising class of Muslim intellectuals, professionals, and business men who are soon to become the elite of the Muslim ummah. None of these other organizations can gather together the best amongst the headstrong, ambitious, and optimistic youth from all corners of North America, across all sorts of sectarian divides, together to sit around a single table and actually plan how we can practically reunite this ummah, and even come away from that table producing 1-year, 5-year, or even 50-year plans. It is primarily on the backs of the volunteers in MSA that the Muslim ummah in North America now stands, with projects like MIST and Project Downtown and Fast-a-Thon coming straight from the product of student ingenuity.
If indeed MSA National is the vehicle by which we can sort through the masses of students and identify our future leaders, then MSA National can be the force that gathers together every necessary resource in order to ensure that nothing hinders those students from receiving the best education and training that they can get, without having to worry about their own socio-economic status and the financial burden of their tuition. Honestly, MSA National should be setting up scholarships to help students study here and abroad for both secular and sacred knowledge. MSA National should help these up-and-coming professionals get connected with other Muslim professionals in their fields of study for jobs or internships. MSA National should be nurturing the minds of the promising youth to develop think-tanks ready to tackle the problems of the world. While many of these projects may already be handled locally, these local MSAs have limited life-spans–they usually only lasts as long as the motivated individuals in the MSA remain. However, on such a huge scope, as long as MSA National is receptive towards inviting all sorts of people with many varying backgrounds to the table, it is nearly impossible that such an organization should have a vacuum of leadership for even one semester.
The current election ballot may tell a different story about how the organization is running, but I'm talking about the potential of the organization here and leaving behind the grim reality. I believe that MSA National is drowning right now, and it is up to every able-bodied MSA student who hears this message to stand up and make a personal commitment to get involved. If there is no vision out there already, let outreach and service to each and every college student in North America be MSA National's goal. Whether we like it or not, MSA National is a reflection of the sum of our efforts on a national scale for our college activism in North America, and we won't get a cleaner image unless we're willing to get in there and get our hands dirty in order to fix it. Honestly, I am disappointed with the image that MSA National has been presenting to its constituents and to the outside world, and I can't say as a Muslim student in North America that I am not even partly to blame for it. Let's all try our best to give MSA National this one more year to show us that it does have the real potential to live up to all our hopes and dreams by helping to move it in that direction. Who knows? Maybe this could be the first domino towards an ummah that gloriously stands back on it's mighty feet once again after having fallen so hard…
Please check some related posts about our community direction in the West: