10 great ideas for MSAs and Muslim student groups for Black History Month

Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today. El Hajj Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X).

Schools and educational institutions are the best places to provide the Islamic perspective on issues. With an audience of open minds and an environment of learning, there is fertile ground for planting the seeds of understanding and doing Dawa.

Black History Month is one of the best times to provide the Islamic perspective on Africa and to discuss the contributions of African Muslims. Below are 10 great ideas you can use during this month to increase awareness of Islam while discussing a current topic.

1. Organize a program on Islam's struggle against slavery

Once upon a time, Islam was seen positively within the African-American community. Today, it is portrayed as an ideology that supports slavery, especial the enslavement of Africans.

This false perception must be challenged by all Muslims, but especially those in educational institutions. Black History Month is a great time to clear up misunderstanding and to confront the lies being spread about Muslims and slavery.

While the ideal situation would be to get a Muslim African-American who can respond with solid evidence, wisdom and good speaking skills to such allegations and do a presentation based on this, this may not be possible. But don't give up. Have one of the better speakers in your Muslim group or MSA prepare a presentation on the topic based on a number of good books written from a Muslim perspective on the topic. One excellent book to consult is Sylviane Diouf's book Servants of Allah.

2. Organize a program on the transformation of Malcolm X

Much has been written about Malcolm X in his pre-Islamic phase: as a young African-American in racist America; as a gangster; as a prisoner, then as a stalwart member of the African-American religious movement the Nation of Islam. But little has been written about his life after he became a Muslim after leaving the Nation of Islam. Black History Month is an excellent opportunity to share this knowledge with others who know little, if anything, about El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, and how Islam transformed his once racist view of the world as a member of the Nation of Islam, to the universalistic outlook of Islam.

3. Set up a display table with books about Islam and Muslims in Africa

If planning a program is too daunting a task, then try setting up a display table at your school with books, articles and posters about Islam and Muslims in Africa. You can, for instance, have the video articles and books on topics like Malcolm X's acceptance of Islam before his death, how Islam has impacted Africa, Islamic history in Africa, Muslim African women and more.

Sound Vision is selling a number of books and videos on Islam in Africa and Muslim African-Americans.. You can buy these items at a discount of 20 percent if you buy by credit or debit card and return what you don't sell to us. Call 1-800-432-4262 for more information.

4. Find out what events are being organized at your school for Black History Month

Call your campus's African History Studies department, check out bulletin boards, notices in campus newspapers to find out what events the school or different organizations are planning for BHM. Then, once you've got all the details, mobilize Muslims at your school to attend them. While the primary aim of attending such activities is to learn, be ready to present Islam, since this may become a great Dawa opportunity.

5. If this program allowing table, get one and set up books

If you can arrange this in advance, contact the group organizing an event on campus for BHM and see if you can have a table set up with books, articles, posters, etc. By doing this, you'll reach out to a crowd that most Muslim groups don't attract, and people may be more willing to come to the table knowing it's part of the event.

6. Organize a joint program between the MSA and African studies

This is just building on the previous idea. By organizing a joint program together, not only will Muslims gain better exposure , but this is also great silent Dawa. Provided the Muslims behave Islamically, this can be a wonderful way to show the truth about Islam. Some topics could include the life of Malcolm X, his contributions, Islam in Africa, etc.

7. Write in campus newspapers

If you think your student newspaper is more suitable to line the birdcage, think again. The school newspaper is a great way to promote ideas to an open-minded audience. Most newspapers have a letters to the editor section, or opinion/editorial section where opinion pieces can be published. For Black History Month, have an MSA representative write a column on one of these suggested topics:

  • ‘What Black History Month means to me as a Muslim'
  • Bilal Ibn Rabah: a first generation African Muslim
  • An incredible African Muslim woman: Barakah
  • Uthman dan Fodio
  • How African Muslims struggled to preserve Islam under slavery
  • Islam and the war against slavery

8. Hear ye, hear ye: use campus radio

Don't be fooled by small numbers: campus radio is an extension of the campus newspaper. That means you can get your message across to a diverse crowd that is, on average, more open-minded. Find out exactly what programs are broadcast on the station and see which one best suits your aim. A current affairs program on happenings on campus; a show on multicultural affairs; or maybe the station is doing a Black History Month special feature and you can get half an hour to an hour on the show to present the Muslim perspective.

9. Class presentation

Are you stumped about what to do for your next class paper or presentation. Look no further! If the class and time are right, choose an Islamic theme related to Black History Month. You can choose one of the topics listed under tip number six, or come up with something more suitable. You can also do a book review of one of the books in our book listing.

10. Library display

Even the most nonacademic students would be attracted to a well-thought out and properly planned display on Black History Month from a Muslim perspective. While not everyone goes into the library, hundreds, if not thousands of students, teachers and staff walk by it everyday. Don't lose this opportunity to set up an attractive display of posters, free pamphlets and more to spread the message of Islam.
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