Date: December 17, 2011
Author: Nitasha Siddiqui
The second Alliance Assembly Session took place on Sunday, December 4th 2011 at Masjid Manhattan (31 Cliff St). The meeting began quite casually, with MSA members reconnecting with their MANY brothers and sisters, sharing news of their MSAs. Developing MSAs (those that were started recently or planned to start) were the focus of the meeting as the MLK MSA was preparing for their first MSA meeting, with a scripted outline ready. As a copy of their outline was passed around to be examined, Br. Alvi gave some pointers on timing the board members as they speak to keep the meeting concise and to avoid awkward interruptions amongst themselves. The newcomers to MANY, representatives from Queens Gateway HS, came to inform us that they were also going to start up their own MSA, and had scheduled a meeting with their principal to plead their case to make the MSA official. They wanted to know how to run their MSA and how to decide their board members. The other attending MSA board members jumped at the chance to offer some help to their brothers and sisters.
As advice to Gateway and MLK, Br. Alvi pointed out that the character of the board members influences the MSA and what it will become over time. If hypocrisy exists inside the board, then it will be evident in the MSA members as well, and that’s already a step in the wrong direction. It was discussed that a board member must set an example for the members, similar to the Prophet S.A.W. who lead by example.Thus, it was suggested that when starting an MSA or in an existing MSA, picking your board carefully is key. Choose someone who promotes the correct image of Islam and is a true devoted and committed leader and Muslim to the best of his or her abilities. This way, the MSA is more than just a “fun club” it’s a place to give and receive da’wah and to me reminded of Allah and our faith as we go through the hectic life of a youth.
Another tip and key point driven during the discussion was making members welcome in the MSA, Muslim or not. Much was said about interacting with members, like simply saying Salaam to them in the halls like Sr. Eva suggested. We also discussed helping those who feel like hypocrites as Muslims and thus don’t think they belong in an MSA. The best way to overcome such emotions is through kindness and a friendly attitude from the other members to show that that there shouldn’t be any fear of belonging; MSA is a brotherhood and there are no prejudices against who can or cannot be there. Some board members themselves may feel they don’t deserve their position. Br. Sifaat pointed out that if you were decreed to be a board member by Allah SWT, then you are meant for the position. It is not more than you can handle, rather your very best is more than enough. Just be patient and Allah will guide you, for He would never give you anything you aren’t capable of overcoming. Have faith and move forward, and use the Qur’an’s examples and the Prophet’s life to give us answers to our obstacles.
As this discussion came to a close, Br Sifaat began his “Build a Board Workshop”. What seemed to be simple bags with numerous origami items was in fact meant to help us learn what makes up an MSA and a board, such as the number of people in the board or the amount of control they have over MSA desicions.
Everyone was broken up into groups, 3 on the girls side and 3 on the guy’s side. As explained by Br. Sifaat, the origami items inside the bags were parts of an MSA, more specifically a board. Each bag had a flower, which represented the MSA’s population: a large MSA with 60+ consistent members; one with 30-50 members; one with 20 or less members. Origami strawberries (girls) and dragons (boys) represented the board. A board could be a 5-man board with the 4 main positions and one other positions such as Event Coordinator or Marketing, a council board, with only a President in charge and other members helping the President make decisions, or a large board with co-positions like Co-Vice President. Next were the asset pieces, which represented the board’s system of power or authority. A board may be a small group that decides everything for the MSA based on their better judgement, a democratic board with polls and votes to gain a consensus from the MSA on club decisions, or a board with certain standards but are flexible based on the MSA’s opinions. Lastly a board may or may not have money. These pieces were unevenly distributed, so a group would have missing pieces and will have to decide themselves what is best for their MSA population.
Each given a bag and in 10-15 minutes, the groups had had to negotiations with other groups to attain the board pieces they believed best fit their MSA’s. The only piece that couldn’t be traded was the MSA board size piece, reflecting to reality when a board can’t change its MSA population, but instead must work with what they have. There was a lot of trading board pieces to gain assets or assets for money, etc. The goal was to gain all 4 pieces to complete your MSA. At the end of the exercise, the groups with each flower were called to explain what they had chosen and why. As some were explained, comments were made about how some systems were very similar to how actual MSAs work, like the BxSci or Stuy MSA.
Once everyone had explained, Br. Sifaat talked about how the workshop made us think about how to organize a board based on the MSA and how to interact with other MSA’s in order to help each other in times of need. There is no need for prideful competition between MSAs. Rather we should all work to support one another. And that is exactly the purpose of MANY, to get MSA’s together and help them grow successful.
After prayer and lunch, Omar Shareef, who had come as a guest, spoke about MIST and it’s preparations. With a few jokes here and there, it was an informative and happy talk as the schools rekindled their MIST NY pride and began the classic “my horse is better than yours” MIST team debate.
The day ended with Aminul discussing the future of MANY, and how, with our hard work, it can become a very large network of MSA’s and teenagers who help one another, as well as grow and develop to become strong activists within their communities. InshAllah, we can reach our goals. May Allah bless everyone and keep everyone in the best state of health and iman! BarakAllahu Fikh!