Pan African Muslim Students Association Provides Community for Black Muslim Students in First Semester In Person
The Pan-African Association of Muslim Students kicked off the fall semester with a new year of reconnecting on campus – following the organization’s first semester of spring 2021 virtual meetings, they plan to hold educational events and build community among black Muslim students throughout the year.
Ahmed Eltahir ’22, president of PAMSA, and Mohammad Hussein ’22, president of marketing of PAMSA, started drafting the club constitution during the winter of last year. Soon after, it was launched as a space for black Muslims at Cornell.
Eltahir said that an ideal campus community makes black Muslims feel safe and that PAMSA aims to foster an environment in which students can be comfortably themselves. PAMSA plans to host its first general body meeting in the next three weeks, Eltahir said.
“The purpose of the Pan-African Muslim Student Association is to create a sense of community for black Muslims on campus,” the constitution reads. “To create this community, PAMSA will provide a space for education and discussion of the cultural, political and social landscape of the converging Muslim and Black Diaspora.”
While organizations like the Muslim educational and cultural association and Black students united focus on one of the two identities, Hussein said that PAMSA aims to explore the intersection between black and Muslim identities.
“These two combinations kind of force us to function differently from the others,” Hussein said. “We have to deal with all the different types of experiences that these entities bring in the suit. There is something special that I think a lot of people can relate to. “
Eltahir said that as a black Muslim he struggled to find a niche and build a community within Cornell’s current Muslim student organizations.
“During my stay here, I noticed that in a lot of spaces there were black Muslims,” Eltahir said. “However, they weren’t engaging in a lot of the traditional Muslim spaces that were available here at Cornell.”
By starting a semester with fewer COVID restrictions, PAMSA is planning more events. On September 17, PAMSA hosted Mustafa Briggs, an academic in black Islamic history, in “Beyond Bilal: Black History in Islam», Part of his current lecture series on the subject. The event took place in person on campus.
According to Nasra Ismail ’22, vice president of PAMSA, this event helped foster a sense of pride and belonging among black Muslims.
“He gave us an in-depth history of all the historical dark figures in Islam, our importance in religion and highlighted our own history, because most of the time when it comes to black Muslims, we don’t “We often don’t feel like we’re being seen as much as our Arab and South Asian counterparts,” Ismail said.
According to Ismail, the association has other events in the works, including teaching a hijab and hair care routine and hosting a networking event with black Muslim professionals.
“All of our events respond to our main message of being a space that empowers black Muslims on campus,” Ismail said.
PAMSA Treasurer Imani Rezaka ’25 said the association’s status as a religious and cultural group makes it eligible for funding from the Board of the intercultural program ALANA and the Cornell Interfaith Council. This funding, according to Rezaka, allows the organization to invite speakers like Briggs and implement other community development and educational initiatives.
While PAMSA has its own organizational goals, Eltahir said student members can also merge the association with whatever they need.
“It is an organization for black Muslims,” Eltahir said. “At the end of the day, we have two cardinal goals, but the people here can shape the space to be whatever they want it to be.”