MSA Launches Project to Help Syrian Civilians


Volunteers from MSA will be tabling for donations every day for the rest of the fall semester and spring semester. (PHOTO BY ZANA NAJJAR/THE OBSERVER)


The Muslim Student Association (MSA), a student-run club at Fordham Lincoln Center, has started the Syria Project. According to MSA, this initiative is meant to encourage the student body to engage with the conflict in Syria–which has displaced over half of the country’s population and made basic food and resources difficult to come by.

From now until the end of the semester, MSA will be collecting food items to ship over to civilians caught in the midst of the war, with the goal of sending two full shipping containers. In the beginning of December, they will be hosting a discussion along with the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Diversity Peer Leaders. Tania Khatun, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’16 and MSA event coordinator , said, “It’s very important that Fordham knows what’s happening in Syria. This project is to create awareness that the crisis is happening, so that our Fordham peers can contribute and help out those who are suffering.”

The MSA is working with Swasia, an organization based out of New Jersey. Last year, Emen Tabit, FCLC ’16, sent six shipping containers full of clothes, motivated by one of the five pillars of Islam, zakat, meaning charity.

Tabit explained that it is an obligation “to give, to give, to give, to give, and if you have a little share it. We have the privilege to be able to eat every single day. We have the privilege to be in an institution that gives us an education, so it is our job as humans to give back.”

Syeda Sanjida, FCLC 16 and MSA president, explains that the Syria Project reflects the club’s mission because “one of the main things in our religion is to maintain solidarity with the rest of our community, and when one part of your body is hurting, you have to treat it, otherwise the rest of your body is affected. So by doing this, trying to get involved, trying to help them out, it’s like taking care of ourselves.”

Sanjida and Tabit emphasize that this community includes not just their Muslim brothers and sisters, but humanity as a whole.

MSA is asking for non-perishable foods and monetary donations, which will be used to buy foods in bulk. The food will be bought here and then shipped because they don’t want to send money.

According to Sanjida, “When you send the money over there, you can’t guarantee that it’s going to be used for what you’re planning to use it for. Money can be used to buy anything–food, guns, other weapons–so for those reasons we are shipping food there in particular and not doing anything related to money being transferred.”

There are multiple ways for members of the student body to get involved. First of all: donate food They are looking for goods with expiration dates of over a year from now. Although everything is appreciated, they would prefer that the foods not contain meat or meat products, as most of the population of Syria is Muslim, so the meat they eat must be halal.

According to Sanjida, “Islamically speaking, it is permissible for somebody to eat non-halal, not-permissible stuff in cases of starvation because God is forgiving, and if you’re starving you have to eat something. But I want to emphasize that the Syrian people are very resilient, and even if they’re starving they will try to abide by the religious rules.” They are avoiding meat products and definitely will not be sending anything with pork. Sanjida recommends bringing things that are high in protein, like beans and peanut butter.

At the discussion in December, there will be an information session about the history of the conflict and what is going on presently; followed by a discussion by students about the future and what more Fordham students  can do, as well as the variety of reactions that the world is having to the Syrian civil war and Syrian refugees.