Although Notre Dame is a predominantly Catholic university, students of other religions are active in forming groups and communities to worship and share their experiences. One such group is Notre Dame’s Muslim Student Association (MSA).
According to Akmal Niyazmatov, the club’s current president, of the approximately 40 Muslim students attending Notre Dame, about 25 are active club members.
The MSA serves as mentors to local Muslim youth and gathers to celebrate religious and cultural holidays. MSA club members are also active at a local mosque, the Islamic Society of Michiana (ISM) mosque, and are currently planning a book drive that will benefit the ISM mosque’s new library. They hope to collect at least 50 books.
Niyazmatov, a law student at Notre Dame, said the MSA has never experienced problems with running the club or staging activities, despite their status as a religious minority on campus.
“I can’t think of any occasion where the MSA had difficulty functioning as a Muslim student club at Notre Dame,” Niyazmatov said. “On the contrary, we’re very well received and accommodated here.”
Niyazmatov said arrangements have been made on campus to accommodate Muslim students’ religious practices, such as the enhancement of the prayer room in the Coleman-Morse Center. It now better suits Muslim needs and includes a special section where Muslim students can take ablutions before they pray.
He also said Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, University president emeritus, often attends MSA events and has told the club they are welcome and appreciated on campus.
“Fr. Hesburgh is a frequent guest at many MSA activities,” Niyazmatov said. “He always emphasizes that Notre Dame welcomes us and is ready to work with us to accommodate us in the best possible manner.”
The MSA also has high hopes for dialogue and interaction between Muslim and non-Muslim students, particularly with regards to coming together to find solutions to today’s major issues.
“I think we can learn a lot of things from each other,” Niyazmatov said. “We shouldn’t focus on differences between us. There are countless common grounds that bring us all together that can serve as a valuable point of convergence to start working on pressing global problems.”
The MSA has several events coming up, including speaking engagements at Culver Academy, a private school approximately an hour away from South Bend, and an Islam Awareness Day that is still in the planning stages.