Today, I had the opportunity to speak with Sabah Muktar, the secretary of the Muslim Student Association and a member of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, who recently introduced President Barack Obama at a historic event. We discussed her event, the Interfaith Center and Islamic-American relations.
What did you think of the Islamic Society event where you introduced the President?
I thought that the event was truly historic, for a president to visit an American mosque. It was a symbol of inclusiveness, and showed to all Americans that Muslims can be and are truly American. As a whole, it was an event that generated positive will towards the Muslim community and let us know that we are included as Americans.
What did President Obama say to you? Must’ve been an awesome moment.
I talked to him for about two minutes before I introduced him. I saw him walk and approach me. The first thing he said was “Hello Sabah.” His recognition of me left me awestruck. Then, we had a short conversation and then he signed my speech for good luck, which was very nice of him. Looking back, it feels surreal even though it was so recent.
Do you wish more political leaders would approach the Islamic community in such a kind way?
I think that not just the Islamic community, politicians should make an effort to show inclusiveness to every community that feels neglected. Kindness breeds good will.
What is your opinion of the campus Interfaith Center?
When I came to college, I had to face personal identity questions. I knew I was a Muslim, but I was unsure of how to practice my faith on campus. I wanted to be integrated into the community, while also being a unique individual. The Interfaith Center has played a huge role in my transition to the college life, from my freshman year onwards. The Muslim Student Association showed that others are facing the same struggles, and are on the same spiritual journey. Seeing older students who were once in my position is truly inspiring. This is why I value the Interfaith Center and religious groups on campus. However, I wish that we had a bigger focus on religious groups on campus.
What are some things that the Muslim Student Association would like on our campus?
We are working towards a halal food stand. Our school has been very cooperative. As people get more involved in religious groups, the demand for the space within the Interfaith Center has increased. I wish we had a bigger space where people could practice religion on campus.
I’ve never been more proud to be a part of the UMBC community because, candidly speaking, our entire community is genuinely kind and so amazing. I’ve never felt Islamophobia, or felt excluded while I’ve been on this campus. It’s been amazing, such a blessing.