By Mary Martin-Mabry, digital communications specialist, Global Affairs
The morning was crisp and the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon, ushering in the last moments of summer. A group of young men and women dressed in their holiday finest worked quickly to unload large mats and pink pastry boxes while children ran up to each other to share hugs and exchange excited greetings.
People had come to the International Center to celebrate Eid al-Adha, one of two major Muslim holidays, commemorating the end of Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). This was the second celebration hosted here by the Islamic Center of Davis and the UC Davis Muslim Student Association (MSA) in the past year, cementing their shared commitment to cultivating a welcoming community.
Despite its proximity to campus (the Islamic Center of Davis is directly across the street on Russell Blvd), Muslim students at UC Davis didn't feel entirely integrated with the Muslim community who attended the mosque in Davis. MSA wanted to remedy this campus-community disconnect, while also trying to be more inclusive of Muslims from across cultures, like the multitude of Southeast Asian and African students at UC Davis who practice Islam.
MSA is establishing an international committee devoted to cultivating more globally inclusive and representative membership. To support this effort, they forged a relationship with the Assistant Director for Intercultural Programming in Services for International Students and Scholars (SISS), a part of Global Affairs. According to MSA External Vice President Kauser Adenwala, Global Affairs was a natural partner in trying to encourage more engagement with the international community— and the International Center was a nice, welcoming space that was much easier for community members to find than other campus buildings. Hosting events at the center in partnership with Global Affairs was a way to reach beyond students who are already involved with MSA.
UC Davis third-year student Yasmin Torabi says she has definitely seen a lot of growth in the Muslim community on and around campus. She acknowledged the connections MSA is helping to foster and felt the Eid celebration was a testament to their commitment to collaborating and connecting with Muslim students from different backgrounds.
"Hosting the second celebration in a year was even more meaningful because it signals to the community that their relationship with Global Affairs and UC Davis is solid," she said.
The MSA board is working hard to integrate campus and the greater Davis Muslim community, to show people that UC Davis is a place you can come and worship and express cultural identity.
"Just look around!" exclaimed Torabi, scanning the crowd at Eid, "there's such diverse representation, we have unity under the umbrella of shared religion."
Omar Razzack, MSA board member for Dawaah and service committee, also agrees that hosting activities on and off campus brings the community together and reaches a larger audience.
While building a strong relationship between the Muslim community on and off campus is a priority, it’s especially important to students that these celebrations take place at the International Center. Torabi believes that it's one thing to pray with people who share your faith at a mosque, but it's totally different to bring faith to campus.
"People really feel like they have a space and it's built for them to express their identities," Torabi said.