The first Muslim fraternity house in the USA is hoping to change perceptions of the American tradition....
If you have heard of America or seen the movie Old School, then chances are you have heard of fraternities. Unfortunately, for many American students, the importance of university is not to achieve the best education but rather to gain entry into the craziest frat possible through the most humiliating way possible. The bigger the fraternity, the higher the chance that parties will be filled with Girls Gone Wild as a result of copious amounts of alcohol. Essentially, this culture is completely counter to the teachings of Islam, and for far too long Muslims have been left out feeling like they have no group to join.
Amazingly, the exclusion of Muslims from fraternities is about to change as the students from the University of Texas, yearning to belong, have created the very first Muslim fraternity in the U.S. The Alpha Lamda Mu, or Alif Laam Meem, was founded by Ali Mahmoud, who desired to feel like he belonged to a group on campus and make a difference, while changing the perceptions of frats and filling a void for Muslim students.
"I realised that there was this void for Muslims on campus," Mahmoud told NPR. "A lot of us come from immigrant families and so, growing up in America, a lot of us have to live a double life ... where we try to please our family, in terms of our Islamic upbringing, and then we go to school ... and we're just trying to fit in. We're just trying to be cool."
Instead of drinking, haram debauchery and hazing new recruits, the ALM focuses on education, community service and fostering a spiritual fellowship among brothers. Aside from that, they have also been busy fundraising for charitable causes and volunteered for a tornado clean-up, as well as countering stereotypes by speaking up about women’s right. In fairness, other frats do participate in providing community service, but often it is a simple guise to justify their existence on campus as something other than a party house.
Currently, it is estimated that 1.4% of American college freshmen are Muslim, and with only being around for a year, the ALM has inspired chapters at Cornell University and University of California, with future plans to open at The University of Florida and San Diego State.
"We are American. We are American Muslims. Those two don't contradict each other at all. And so we're not hiding away ourselves, we're just living with people who have the same beliefs that we do," Mahmoud said.
It is long overdue that Muslims feel comfortable in their birth country. ALM is uniting disenfranchised Muslims, and as time passes, one can only assume that chapters will continue to sprout up all across the States.