In front of a crowd of approximately 1000 attendees, the University of Saskatchewan Ahmadiyya Muslim Students’ Association made Western Canadian history this July when they won the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association’s National Award of Excellence for 2014-15.
Founded in 1938, Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association is a youth group that works with young Muslim males around the country. The international organization serves as a support network for youth of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and includes over 30 sects across Canada. U of S AMSA is a student extension of the organization and works to support the cause through various on-campus, student-led initiatives.
At this year’s 28th National Ijtema (Ijtema is an Islamic term for convention) Rashid Ahmed, U of S AMSA president, accepted the honour on behalf of the university.
“Most of the time the award goes to Eastern Canada because there are more population and more volunteers who are working, but we created history for the first time in U of S,” Ahmed said. “This is due to the efforts of the volunteers. They worked hard day and night; they were motivated.”
According to Ahmed, AMSA’s role at the university is to give guidance to students regarding social, cultural, academic or religious issues and it proudly operates under the mission statement, “Love for all, hatred for none.” The group’s ability to raise awareness and connect multicultural communities is what ultimately won them the National Award of Excellence.
Over the course of 2014-15, AMSA participated in events such as Meet a Muslim Family whereby Saskatonians could register to dine at the home of a Muslim family in effort to break down negative perceptions and stereotypes. Another event, StopthecrISIS, worked to decrease prejudice and turned out to be the most successful event in U of S AMSA history with approximately 300 people taking part.
“The emphasis on that event was to remove radicalization in society. To give the guidance to the students of what actually is Islam. And what the prophet Mohammed says and what others are doing, this is not actually Islam. We got a really good response and feedback from everywhere, whether it was from other student associations or communities,” Ahmed said.
Despite the organization’s specific focus toward male Muslim youth, Ahmed insists that U of S AMSA aims to demonstrate that the vast majority of Muslims around the world are peaceful, simply misunderstood by Western society and welcoming of all genders, cultures and religions.
“AMSA is a student association and most of the time we get the question like ‘AMSA is only for men? Or women too?’ and I want students to know that AMSA is for men and women as well, and we are always taking part in events and working as a team. AMSA is always helping students at the U of S regarding their academic issues or if they want to ask any questions, they are most welcome to come to us,” Ahmed said. “AMSA is here for the students and always happy to help anyone from any community.”
Looking to the year ahead, Ahmed hopes to maintain and improve upon the group’s current success and he recognizes that it is not something they can accomplish on their own.
“We want to bridge gaps among the communities and we want to involve everyone from every society because AMSA is not a separate group; it is for everyone in the university,” Ahmed said. “I want to congratulate all of the students at the U of S for this achievement because this is not only an achievement of AMSA but it is the achievement of all of us.”