Battle of the MSA Comes to Bucks


Nico Cisneros

Face paint, team colors, and fight songs may be what you’d expect at a college sports game, but they were all on full display at the 6th annual Battle of the MSAs (Muslim Student Associations) hosted at Bucks’s Newtown campus. The energy was palpable as almost 140 members of 10 collegiate MSAs from the tri-state area arrived to compete in intercollegiate games that included Jeopardy, math, improvisational comedy, and recitation of the Qu’ran. For the Bucks MSA, win or lose, the day was already a triumph.
Hosting the Battle of the MSAs (BOTM) is no easy feat, especially for a community college. Since 2012, the event has been hosted by the Philadelphia MSA Council (PMC), a nonprofit that supports and provides networking and civic engagement opportunities for MSAs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. A year prior to each BOTM, colleges put in bids to be the host. “We’ve kind of been the underdog [for hosting] since we’re not a four-year institution,” admitted MSA Vice President Ume Sarfaraz. “But ever since we’ve been increasing our presence at [PMC] events, letting them know that we are a community college and that we can compete with the big guys…[PMC] really acknowledged that.” PMC President Noor Jemy agreed. She and members of the PMC board visited the campus after receiving Bucks’s bid to scope out venue space, and to see how supportive the administration would be in hosting the event. All were impressed by what Bucks had to offer, and the enthusiasm of the administration and MSA.
What made this win even more impressive is that the Bucks MSA has only been around a year and a half. The club had been inactive until October 2015, when co-founder and current SGA president Razin Karu revived it. Though not currently serving on the MSA’s executive board, Razin also played an integral role in getting Bucks chosen for the BOTM: at the request of current MSA president Rashed Alkatawneh, Razin put in Bucks MSA’s bid. The two had been trying to think of a way to host an event that would encourage other MSAs to come to the Bucks campus, when they decided to put in a BOTM bid. Both hoped that Razin’s familiarity with the PMC would help them navigate the process, and give them a better chance at being considered.
Bucks MSA members could not be more thrilled that he did. “It’s such a huge honor,” noted MSA Director of Events Shanzeh Khan. “It makes me so happy to see all the MSAs at our college! You just think that, within a year, God has been so great to us and it’s so nice to see the amount of happiness and unity here. We’re just so glad to be a part of that.” MSA member Aneeqa Karu agreed: “It’s a great opportunity for us to represent the students who are Muslims, not just [this campus] but for Upper Bucks and Lower Bucks students as well. And we still want to continue being an active club on this campus because of the environment right now in the United States.”
That environment, along with the death of prominent American Muslim and famous boxer Muhammad Ali, influenced this BOTM’s theme, American Muslim Hero. Noor Jemy explained why the theme was so poignant: “We chose the theme because it was so critical when Muhammad Ali died– we needed to honor him. Then it became so relevant recently…because both identities [American and Muslim] are interchangeable. Neither identity is greater than the other. Both create who we are.” Students in the competition reflected on the theme in 2D art, essays, short films, and photography. These submissions highlighted parents, doctors, and others across a wide spectrum of life and careers. “We’re allowing them to define what a hero means to them,” Noor said. “And what it means to be an American Muslim one.” Aneeqa Karu expressed what the theme meant to her: “To leave a legacy we need a hero, and this meeting of the MSAs is a great opportunity to find the hero within ourselves.”
It was with that motivation and pride that the Bucks MSA entered the competitions of the day, going in for improv, math, and Jeopardy. Although they did not get past preliminary round for improv, they advanced in math and Jeopardy to win first place overall for both– defending the Jeopardy title they had championed the year prior.
Going forward, the group will continue their monthly meetings and service projects. Ume Sarfaraz noted that there would be upcoming fundraisers, and for students to be on the lookout for their annual Discover Islam week during the month of April.