MPAC recognizes the potentials and strength in the Nigerian student constituency that will emerge if some of the Muslim organizations we have on campuses at the moment put aside petty differences, overhaul their main structures and administer their organizations in the manner that will enable them to become competitive and truly accountable to the Ummah in the society we live in today. A campus-based Muslim organization that is result-driven and community supported will be more beneficial and capable to serve the community that funds its activities. It is the responsibility of these organizations to invent ingenious ways to integrate Islamic values into the school life and work together with other Islamic organizations to facilitate the practice of Islam on campus.
In the world that we live today, Muslim Students must become active members of this Ummah not just in the potentials they hold but also at the leadership level. We can learn this from the noble examples provided through the stories and lives of many Muslim youth at the earlier stage of Islamic history. MPAC has the vision to empower the Nigerian Muslim Student organizations to develop and utilize their potentials, and institute viable systems of self-defense and self-empowerment in their management structures. MPAC seeks to work with the Muslim student constituency to tap the latent strength, energy and talent of this sleeping giant and invest their potentials in our future; to build robust and community-supported Islamic campus organizations that facilitate growth, openness and progress.
We are all witnesses to the hardship and persecution that Muslim students face especially at NYSC camps where despotic camp officials use authority vested in them to promote their own religious bigotry and intolerance. The wake up call has come for the Muslim students. Muslim students have to get their act together, defend themselves, and defend their deen. Despite suffering several injustices on campus, at camps and during recruitment exercises, many Muslim students never really fully grasped the severity of the situation we as Muslims are facing. For this section, life carry on as usual. It’ll never happen to them. Think again, it has. The current climate in Nigeria is such that silence or passivity is not an option. We must recognize that our political inaction in the past has had disastrous consequences; unfair targeting of Muslims who wish to peacefully express their Islamic identities on campus, erosion of civil rights and religious freedom, increasing incidents of Islamophobia are to name a few. It is vitally important therefore that the Nigerian Muslim student constituency becomes more involved in the political and media spheres.
MPAC Proposed Immediate Action Plan To The Nigerian Muslim Student Organizations
Rather than being pushed into a corner the Muslim students need to establish themselves as an integral part of campus life by doing the following:
1. Effective Communication of Muslim student issues in the media
Most students can correctly diagnose the problem that Muslims are not involved in the media. But very few understand where the problem begins and how we can begin working towards solving different issues involving the media.
Muslim students should endeavor to work on campus newspapers as reporters and journalists in order to relate issues which concern them. Also, this ensures that anti-Muslim sentiments are not easily expressed through this medium.
2. Combating Islamophobia on campus and media
Anti-Muslim propaganda on campus and in the media needs to be monitored and then responded to promptly through action alerts and mobilizing Muslim Student Societies to lobby.
3. Establishing a strong Muslim voice within the student union
Easily the most visible way Muslim students can affect campus politics is by actively and conscientiously participating in the Student Union. God-fearing and competent Muslim students who are both articulate and politically active must be identified and promoted to take up important positions in the student union bodies. Do not underestimate the importance of good representation. Aim is to rise within the ranks of the Union and to get on selected executive committees. Politicizing your Muslim student associations will make Muslim students more of a force on internal campus politics.
4. Increasing awareness of Islam on campus
As Muslims, we are responsible for delivering the message of Islam wherever we are. Therefore on campus you must increase awareness of Islam and remove the stereotypical views most people have of Islam and Muslims, fueled predominantly through media propaganda. As callers of Islam on campuses, Muslim student organizations should realize the unique role that they play in shaping the future of our Ummah. They are in contact with three important segments of the future societies:
•The international students and students of other faiths who will go back and lead their communities.
• The new generation of Muslim students who will lead the Muslim community.
• The Muslim students who will be the political, social and academic leaders in the Nigerian society or world at large.
Muslim student organizations must be pro-active in the way it seeks to engage these major segments and reach out to each in order to introduce them to the message of Islam and make available to them Islamic values on issues important to students on campus. To achieve this, your Muslim student organization must have clear objectives. The objectives would answer -the simple question, “Why do you have a Muslim student organization?” At the most fundamental level, the Muslim student organization should create a dynamic community of active Muslims on campus, and Islam should become integral part of school life for all Muslim students. Your organization should be a proactive organization based on the Islamic concepts of excellence and execution (ihsan and itqan) that seeks to fulfill the Qur’anic injunction:
“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity.” (Surah Al-Imran, 3: 104)
Excellence can be achieved through planning for it. It is surprising how many Muslim student organizations simply don’t plan. Some of the basic tools that would help your organization to plan better would be:
• Hold elections early so that the incoming Executive has the entire holiday period to plan. This also enables a better transition and transfer of know-how. Reach out to and include the sisters in the highest decision-making executive of the organization.
• When you plan, do shura (consult) with as many people as possible. There are many valid ways to do things, and many people to ask, from other Muslim student organizations members/workers and community leaders to many students on campus. Ask people. There are many people with a lot of Student organizations administration experience or other relevant skills who would be very willing to help you and to advise you. A very good way to find such people is by asking for specific help from the Muslim professional bodies and Islamic service agencies for instance.
• Place ads in school paper so people know you exist. Establish a media department and seek professional guide to run it efficiently. Organize workshops and invite Muslim leadership trainers and media professionals to discuss and teach you about political leadership and lobbying on campus and the arts of public relations.
• Organize Islam Awareness Week if your campus is located in a region/community of the country where Islam and Islamic Issues are not well known or Living Islam Week in other places to propagate the beauty and richness of Islamic culture/heritage and civilization. Invite members of the school authority (e.g. the Student Affairs Officer) and Islamic scholars as well as Muslim professionals (from the media, political circuit and service givers) to work with your organization to develop practical guides to reach out to both the Muslim and non-Muslim populations of your campus. Use these events to highlight specific issues facing the Muslim students on your campus or the Muslim students generally. Give any issue affecting your members human face by allowing affected persons to address the public on such occasion.
• Put a banner with an interesting Islamic message outside of your school (if you are allowed). Make your presence known and felt in a positive way! Make the masjid a living place of worship and Islamic education and not just a place to pray and sleep.
• Advertise the prayer times and locations all over the campus- you should be able to do this as long as it is not destructive or done in a way that is counter-productive.
• Be visible at pre-registration and Jambite/Fresher’s Week (make efforts to get an insert in the registration package if your school has one).
• Have frequent events on campus (e.g. Dinners, lectures, workshops) and invite non-Muslims to these functions. Encourage gender groups to have separate picnics and gender specific events and encourage each person to bring their non-Muslim friends.
• Lastly, always think about the implications of your decisions and actions. Everyone does things that by some are considered to be “dumb,” but if you know from the start that something has no reasonable justification, or that it has more negative consequences than positive ones, or there are better ways of achieving the same result with least negative publicity, stop yourself. Organization trustees must lead their executives and members in developing an organization philosophy of not doing “dumb” things or allow infighting.
History has borne witness to the student body as being extremely revolutionary. Can the Nigerian Muslim students take up this challenge and reignite this passion for Muslim Student Activism?