To Be a Muslim Student at LMU

lmu magazine muslim usa 620x413 - To Be a Muslim Student at LMU

Grounded in the Jesuit and Marymount education traditions, Loyola Marymount University embraces its interfaith student community. Last year, 125 students at Loyola Marymount University self-identified as Muslim. For LMU Magazine, Professor Amir Hussain introduces the Muslim community at LMU.

At LMU, a group of freshman students have revived the Muslim Students Association, for which Hussain is the advisor. Additionally, the Division of Student Affairs continues to support religious pluralism on the bluff through programs and services for students of all faiths.

“Many of [the students] are American,” Hussain says in the LMU Magazine piece, “but a growing number are international students, who come to American because this nation provides the best education in the world. They are, both domestic and foreign, amazing students, and it is a joy to work with them.”

In the “Muslim U.S.A.” article, Dr. Amir Hussain, professor of theological studies, asked students, and others from the LMU community, to describe their faith, lives and experience as a Muslim in the United States.

Dania Fadawi - To Be a Muslim Student at LMU

Dania Fadawi, freshman
Major: Political Science
Birthplace: Torrance, California
Family Roots: Syria
What is the biggest misconception about Muslims that you deal with?
“The biggest misconception specifically about Muslim women is that we wear the hijab not because of our free will, not because we want to, but because we are forced to wear it. This contradicts Islam because wearing the hijab should be a sincere action in which Muslim women choose to wear the hijab because they want to. People think wearing the hijab may be a struggle. For me, it’s not. I wear the hijab because I choose to, and it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life because it has made me a much stronger person.”

Kienan Tawell - To Be a Muslim Student at LMU

Kienan Tawell, freshman
Major: Political Science
Birthplace: Los Angeles
Family Roots: Syria and Hungary
Do you ever feel as if you are stereotyped as being foreign simply by being a Muslim, despite the fact that you were born and raised in the United States?
“Because people do not expect me to be a Muslim based on my physical appearance, they have been surprised when I do tell them that I am Muslim. If I had visible traits of my faith, like girls who wear the hijab, it would be a more difficult scenario. Despite the negativity that I see in the media, I do not want to engage in the belief that Islam is incompatible with America. I believe Islam has a place in this country, and I consider myself a patriot who is proud to be an American Muslim.”

Sarah Yoseph - To Be a Muslim Student at LMU

Sarah Yoseph, senior
Major: Mathematics
Birthplace: Inglewood, California
Family Roots: Ethiopia and Yemen
You live with your mother; why did she come to the United States?
“My mother came here from Yemen. She had a good job in Yemen and came to the United States for a vacation. When she got here, she loved the freedom for everyone and the work ethic. There is a relaxed social lifestyle in Third World countries. She appreciated the work ethic. She is someone who likes to work hard. So she came here for school and wanted to be a self-made woman, which America offered.”

Bader Alghunaim - To Be a Muslim Student at LMU

Bader Alghunaim, junior
Major: Civil Engineering
Birthplace: Kuwait
Why is having Friday prayer available at LMU important to you?
“The significance of having the prayer group at LMU is that, at the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, we are part of the Muslim community. Here, we are creating a Muslim community. That’s a big difference. We’re able to unite through religion and by meeting each Friday. When we meet for Friday prayer every week, we get to know the community more and more. We get to see what the others are struggling with and whether we can help them in any way. We get to be there for one another. It also reminds me of home, where I used to go to Friday prayer with my father, with my brothers. It’s a piece of home that I get to be a part of here.”

Zainah Al Essa - To Be a Muslim Student at LMU

Zainah Al Essa, sophomore
Major: Psychology and Political Science
Birthplace: Kuwait
Do you feel a responsibility to explain Islam to Americans?
“In all honesty, I do feel a responsibility to explain Islam and my being a Muslim to Americans. I don’t ever get tired of it. People think that Islam is anti-West and hateful to anything that’s American. I don’t think that’s true at all. I feel it is my duty to right this wrong because people have such negative ideas about such a peaceful religion. ‘Islam’ really translates to peace. It’s hard to constantly have to tell people ‘You have to consider these things,’ but I want to keep doing it as long as I am here. If I can change the perception, hopefully, that’s an impact.”

Zyad Al Marayati - To Be a Muslim Student at LMU

Zyad Al-Marayati ’15
Major: Political Science
Birthplace: Los Angeles
Family Roots: Iraq and Palestine
Did you as a Muslim feel at home at LMU?
“What resonated the most for me as a Muslim at LMU was the service organization community. Inclusiveness is the No. 1 factor when it comes to my religion. There is no more welcoming or more tolerant community than the service org community. I was in Ignatians and on the Ignatians Executive Board. In terms of Jesuit ideals, what’s important is finding the social justice niche in whatever profession or career that you choose. Business, advertising, marketing, finance — those are careers that most people would dismiss when they think of social justice, but they have a connection to social justice. That’s the greatest impact that LMU has had on me: making sure I find that social justice part in whatever I do. I’m eternally grateful for my experience at LMU.”

This article by Amir Hussain appeared in its original form in the Summer 2016 issue of LMU Magazine.

Photographs by Jon Rou