This month marks the fifth anniversary of my entry to the U.S. It was back in 2003 when I first set foot on American soil pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.
It took a great deal of time and effort to convince my parents to allow me to come here.Petrified by the series of arrests and harassments randomly wreaked on Muslims in the post-9/11 U.S., my parents had a vehement yet understandable reluctance to bless the endeavor.
To them, carrying a Saudi Arabian passport in the U.S. meant a lifetime of adversity.
They certainly held no monopoly on their view. Back then, almost every Saudi parent dismissed the thought of sending their kids to US schools as outside the realm of possibility.
There was so much fear-mongering about how discriminatory Americans would have been against Arabs and Muslims at the time that I came to believe that once I landed here, Uncle Sam would throw me into an orange jumpsuit, take some mug shots and ship me first class down to Guantanamo Bay. No charges would be imposed on me except, of course, being a Saudi national.
Luckily enough, none of these speculations materialized.
In actuality, with the exception of some individual cases, my stay here has been an undeniably positive and memorable experience.
I loved CSU the day I walked in. I’d been particularly intrigued by the freedoms allowed to the students to express their respective interests.
In an era when journalists were throwing fuel on the fire by continually distorting realities about Islam and, more often than not, focusing on and greatly magnifying the differences between the West and the Muslim world, I made an unwavering vow to give the American people what they deserved: the unvarnished truth.
In order to carry out that mission, I involved myself in the Muslim Student Association.
Over the past few years, MSA organized a number of educational events and activities. Due to limited space, only a few of those are listed below:
In 2005, we held the event Terrorism, Islam and the West and our guest speaker reiterated the truth that Islam is at odds with all acts of terrorism.
Later that year, MSA hosted fundraising booths in support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In an attempt to determine what most perplexes non-Muslims about Islam, MSA conducted a series of polls and, predictably, the issue of Muslim women dominated responses to the questionnaire.
With that in mind, we held the Islam Awareness Dinner of 2006 to unveil the myths about Muslim women.
While preparations for the latter event were underway, the infamous Danish cartoons depicting Islam’s honored messenger came into the spotlight, stirring up rage throughout the world.
At that time, MSA, reacting both swiftly and responsibly, invited a world-class scholar to elucidate the message of peace that Prophet Muhammad was sent to convey.
In September 2006, in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, MSA sponsored the Islam and America; Hope Not Hate town hall meeting.
A year later, MSA departed from the ordinary and sponsored a large-scale fundraising dinner which drew over $90,000 to assist the Fort Collins Muslim community with a construction project.
Last but not least, the 17th Annual Islamic Cultural Night, MSA’s biggest night ever, took place in 2008. A presenter explained some of the principles of the Islamic faith such as the belief in the oneness of God and the message of His last messenger Muhammad.
However, none of these accomplishments would have been possible without the ongoing support of the following organizations. A word of thanks is due to them:
To the various Collegian boards that I personally have had the honor of working with and for the gracious coverage of our activities.
To SLICE and ASCSU, for providing Muslim students with a comfortable environment in which they could work at bridging our respective worldviews. Without you, MSA would not have been the most awarded student organization in CSU history.
Finally, to the MSA itself, which has been much more than a mere student organization. It’s served as a home away from home and has always been there for me through my transition to the leadership realm. Thank you all.
This year, Fort Collins was once again ranked as being among the top cities to live in the U.S. This should show that I am not to blame for my affection towards this stupendous town.
Undoubtedly, there are a few things that I won’t miss about Fort Collins, such as the train relentlessly and annoyingly screaming its lungs out at 3 a.m., but for the most part, only God knows how tough it’s going to be when I leave to go back home this month.
Zaki Safar is a senior electrical engineering major and math minor. He is also the former president of the MSA. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com.