2018 is being defined by the power of student voice. Following the lead of survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, students across America have been voicing their opinions on issues that affect the country and publically advocating for change. From forming clubs to organizing protests, many have become passionate about standing up for what they believe in.
This is very true for Aaeshah Siddiqui, a sophomore at Michigan Virtual Charter Academy (MVCA). Aaeshah founded MVCA’s first Muslim Student Association (MSA), a club that encourages discussion about misconceptions in Islam in order to combat negative stereotypes toward Muslims. The club is interfaith, meaning that it is open to practicers and non-practicers of any religion. Under Aaeshah’s leadership, MSA holds both in-person and online meetings and organizes local community service efforts.
Aaeshah got the idea to start MSA in 2017 through the help of her English teacher, Mr. Hoofman. She was interested in creating a Muslim-centered organization because of the increase in negative stereotyping surrounding Muslims.
“I was tired of constantly hearing that Muslims were being misrepresented by the media, so I wanted to found a platform that encouraged questions about Islam with no judgement,” she said. Mr. Hoofman immediately agreed to sponsor the club, and the Muslim Student Association became official the following school year.
Aaeshah says that although the members mainly focus on topics regarding Islam, they share many similarities with each other, like being teenagers and online school students. “In MSA, we discuss various topics like food, culture, hijab, and prayer, but we also compare Islam to different religions that other people in the club may observe,” she explained. “For instance, this year we had a Catholic student present at one of our meetings to give us a different perspective.”
One of the pillars of MSA is making a change in the world, and its members make sure that they are fulfilling that mission through local volunteer opportunities. “We plan different volunteering efforts and carry out projects to help the world in our own way,” Aaeshah said. “One of the projects that we did this year was a clothing drive for the homeless students at MVCA, and it was an experience to remember.”
Aaeshah is extremely grateful for the support that she receives from the staff at MVCA. “The fact that MVCA is so willing and open to new ideas for clubs is how I have been able to have an amazing social experience in an online school,” she said. “Since day one, MVCA has allowed me to make friends, whether it be through classes, projects, or the various clubs!”
Aaeshah has been able to see the positive impact that MSA has had on its members. “A few of the non-Muslims that attend our meetings have said that they didn’t have any Muslim friends before MSA,” she said. “This club has not only helped raise awareness, but given some people a new perspective on life!”