Greek Life, Islamic Style

Muslim-fratBy Kyle Spencer, New York Times

Shortly before sunup, a dozen or so students at the University of California, San Diego, stumbled dutifully out of bed. They ironed their collared shirts, knotted their ties and piled into their cars. Their destination was the Islamic Center of San Diego, where they were to be initiated into the country's first Muslim fraternity, Alpha Lambda Mu, named for three letters that start several chapters of the Quran: Alif Laam Meem.

After the morning prayer, Fajr, the 13 pledges recited a passage from the Quran, then listened attentively as their adviser applied the Islamic values of loyalty, sincerity and brotherly forgiveness to daily life on campus. Finally, the young men pronounced their goals for the coming semester: Rumzi Khan, a computer science major who founded the chapter, vowed to pray more. Several science majors promised to double down on their studying. Samer Abusaleh, a junior in economics, pledged to be more consistent with his Quran reading. He also wanted to work on his six-pack, and not the kind usually associated with Greeks. There was nothing typical about this initiation, which ended over plates of carrot cake pancakes and huevos rancheros at a 1950s-style pancake house. No beer pong. No hazing. None of the raucousness that characterizes frat life.

Alpha Lambda Mu was founded just a year ago by Ali Mahmoud, a junior biology and sociology major at the University of Texas, Dallas, as a national fraternity for Muslim college students. Mr. Mahmoud, who is seeking university recognition and a house for his chapter, hosted the first formal rush this fall: 40 students showed up, and half were offered bids. A total of 24 members now make up the Texas chapter.

Mr. Mahmoud, whose parents emigrated from Egypt before he was born, says he founded the frat to offer Muslim students the chance to express both sides of their identity, the American and the Muslim, at a time when "more and more of us identify strongly with both."

The directive is for spiritual students to have more fun, and convivial ones to incorporate more spirituality in their lives. Mr. Mahmoud's guidebook stipulates that chapters organize events every semester. Some are to be purely social, others to teach life skills, encourage volunteer work and enrich members with Islamic culture. (Read more)

 


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