The first ever Ivy Muslims Conference this weekend persevered despite a mid-Atlantic snowstorm Friday night.
Muslims from five Ivy League schools convened at Yale Saturday and Sunday in the first conference organized by Muslim Student Association chapters across the Ivy League. About 120 delegates from each Ivy League school attended, with 30 delegates from Yale. Attendees from the Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton chapters were absent due to the snowstorm that hit Friday night.
The conference was the brainchild of Omer Bajwa, the Coordinator of Muslim Life on campus. The Yale MSA worked in conjunction with the University Chaplain's Office to organize the event.
The conference began Saturday with a Dhuhr, or midday prayer, and addresses by Bajwa, Tariq Mahmoud '11 president of the Yale Muslim Students Association, and University Chaplain Sharon Kugler. Throughout that day and the next, students attended panels and small group discussions on topics including post-graduate experiences, gender dynamics, campus activism, community activism and life as a Muslim-American.
"I think there will be a lot of opportunities in growth and cooperation between the different MSAs after this conference," Mahmoud said, adding that sharing experiences of going to an Ivy League school helped the groups to bond.
Mahmoud said the Yale MSA had only previously worked with regional and state chapters. This conference marks the first time Muslim students have convened through Ivy League ties, he said, adding that he hopes it will serve as a starting point for an Ivy League chapter of the MSA.
"This was a first-time project for all of us — I don't think Muslim students from the Ivy League had collaborated with or contacted each other much before the conference," Yale MSA social chair Sana Samnani '12 said in an e-mail. "But this weekend really gave us the opportunity to meet and get to know each other in order to work together on future events."
Mahmoud said the conference helped to fill the void in networking opportunities for Ivy Muslims, adding that he hopes there will be similar cross-Ivy events by the end of the semester.
Because Yale is more or less equidistant from other Ivy League schools, it was an ideal location for the conference, said Umar Qadri '11, Yale MSA's vice president. Still, Mahmoud said he does not think Yale will always be able to host the conference, but he said he hopes other colleges will continue the event, making it an annual tradition.
Because of the snowstorm, the organizers only expected about 10 delegates from each school, Qadri said. But turnout exceeded his predictions.
"It turned out better than I had imagined it, especially with the enthusiasm and support shown by the other Ivy League colleges," Samnani said.
Still, Faisal Hamid '13, who went to the conference, said he thinks attendance could be improved in future years.
"We had minimal attendance from Harvard and Princeton," he said. "It would have been nice to get them on board."
Hamid said that because this conference was largely organized by the Yale chapter of MSA, he thinks more inter-Ivy League collaboration would greatly improve future events.
The Yale MSA, which has around 200 members, kicked off Islamic Awareness Month at Yale with a meet and greet with members and guests on Friday.