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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Muslim Students Association striving to better the school community

University of Massachusetts Boston’s Muslim Students Association’s (MSA) has 295 members, making it the largest student club on campus. “At the December blood drive with the Dana-Farber [Cancer Institute], we reached our limit for donating. All the slots were booked, but people kept showing up,” said the club’s 21-year-old President Sharik Purkar. Over the past semester, the club also organized an Interfaith Dinner, a combination Talent and Fashion show, and an MSA Dinner with Provost Winston Langley as a featured speaker.
Purkar, a Quincy, Mass. resident who has lived there since moving from Mumbai, India when he was 13, said, “You don’t build a castle in a day, you have to lay the bricks down, brick by brick. Right now, we are just focusing on trying to lay each one down perfectly.
Purkar says he continually encounters alumni who used to be members in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but that for a long time, the MSA was, “nothing, essentially. There were Friday prayer sessions, but no events.” In fall 2012, then President Omar Ismail and newer member Purkar “made a push” for change. At the end of the academic year, Ismail graduated and Purkar was elected president. Returning in the fall, the group’s member base increased from “100 to almost 300 in about two weeks.”
“People wanted to get involved. Most aren’t even Muslims,” he says. The lack of restrictions to join is something that Purkar feels is important. Ultimately, he says, the group emphasizes “community service, community engagement, and the benefit of the individual for the benefit of the society.”
“We are also not trying to reinvent a wheel here. We are trying to work with the existing organizations.” The recent Interfaith Dinner, which involved the Christian Sojourn Ministry and the Hillel House, is an instance of this, says Purkar. For an upcoming Qur’an Reading Competition scheduled on March 15, MSAs from other schools are invited to attend. 
The club, in conjunction with MASSPIRG, is taking part in The Hunger Cleanup, a nationwide campaign that asks students to “form teams of 5-10 and compete in raising as much money as possible for organizations both locally and internationally that are working towards ending hunger.”
The MSA is currently in the process of ratifying its constitution and Purkar predicts it will be finalized sometime in the next two weeks. Despite the challenge of getting so many members in one place to do so, he has strived to make the organization as democratic as possible. “When people vote, they have ownership,” he said. It is Purkar’s intent that both the ratification of the constitution and his successor be chosen in this manner.
This spring, Purkar will graduate as a triple major in International Management, Economics, and African Studies. After he leaves, he hopes that the group — at the very least — will have two blood drives and an Interfaith Dinner annually, and MSA Dinners with “more people, more community, and exceptional leaders.”
While he is still here, he is working on a long-term goal with the potential to benefit the student population: The building of a Sacred Space. Purkar says, that despite UMass Boston giving a world-class education, “The school currently has no reflective space, one to be used by students for mediation, quiet contemplation, and prayer.”
Purkar has met with the Chancellor, two Vice-Chancellors, and the Assistant Dean of Students to take the steps to make this project a reality. Referring to the building that is a part of the University’s Master Plan to revamp its campus, “Ideally, the space would be in General Academic Building #2.” He says, “We hope to get more student voices and organizations involved as the discussion progresses.” 
You can find the club online on the UMass Boston Student Activities website, “Muslim Students Association,” or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/UMassBostonMsa