By Beena Inam Shamsi, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
Sana Ali never had a Muslim friend up until she started college. Her early years of life were spent in Jacksonville, Florida, her peers mostly white people. This lack of association with the Muslim community did not hinder her iman in the least bit but in turn made her more tolerant of other religions and peoples of other colors.
Since a very young age, she hoped to become an essential part of the Muslim community; she knew in her heart that she had an ability to lead.
â€œI was always the brown girl, different girl,â€ Ali said. â€œI went from having very little contact with Muslim friends and the Muslim community to now, where I am at the core to be involved.â€
Ali, 20, of Detroit, has worked her way to achieve her dream of becoming a president of the Muslim Student Organization of Wayne State University. She sacrificed her time and some of her classes to make room for the MSAâ€™s board.
She is a junior at Wayne State, majoring in Biology/Pre-Optometry. Ali said she took more classes at the beginning of the semester and had to drop a few to accommodate MSA. She said that she loves representing the MSA, and added that she is still looking to find a balance between her studies and the MSAâ€™s work.
Her task as president ranges from making decisions for the MSA to arranging guest lectures and dinners. Ali had been working very hard to meet the demands on her personality and time from the demands of being on MSAâ€™s board.
People who know her admire her allegiance and her great enthusiasm for the MSAâ€™s work.
Grant Joseph Shafer, a pre-medicine student at Wayne State, who has known Ali only for a few months, has come to appreciate the strength of her character and conviction that she brings to her life and the MSA.
â€œAli approaches each day with a passion that is very rare in this age of apathy,â€ Shafer said.
He further said that Ali is unafraid to speak her mind and strives to show people of all races and religions the respect and compassion that they deserve as human beings, which makes her a truly remarkable individual.
Ali is not only the President of the MSA; she is also working in a Student Council Budget Committee. In addition, she holds a job at the calling center on Wayne State, where she asks alumni for donations for the school, and most of this money goes for scholarship to the students.
Ali is also a chair of MSA Central Zone Transportation, which is a part of MSA National. MSA National organizes dynamic regional, zonal and continental conferences that focus on students. As a C-Zone Transportation Chair, her responsibilities include organizing transportation for students who attend the conference out of town.
Those who stay in the hotel need transportation to and from the hotels to the conference site. She organizes the pick-up and drop-off of students from airports and busses and makes sure everything runs in a timely manner and efficiently, said Ali.
Ali said she does not make the ultimate decisions for MSA until the entire board comes to a consensus. She increased her work output for MSA and this in turn helped her to strengthen her leadership skills, said Ali.
â€œIt is important in terms of leadership skills to be able to have communication skills and have a personality where you can get people to work for you,â€ Ali said.
About working with other organizations, Ali said that MSA is working hard for collaborating panelist discussions among Christians and Jewish student organizations on campus. MSA invites guest speakers in terms of explaining about Islam to non-Muslims, she said it is not as if they are converting them but to tell them about the beauty of Islam.
In their next inter-faith event, MSA along with Intervarsity Christian Organization, and Jewish Students Organization, will discuss different perspectives of Prophet Abraham (as), said Ali.
Ali said that MSA is in a process of getting a prayer room in the student center or at the undergraduate library at the Wayne State. Instead of calling it a prayer room, they will name it a meditation room so anyone can come, she said.
With her hard work, she is motivating other students to join and become active, said Nayeem Amin, an active MSA member and a freshman at the Wayne State. He said that Ali is creative in her approach to have parties for female members as well as similar bonding events.
Aliâ€™s family moved around a lot because of her fatherâ€™s job. Since 2001, she has been in Michigan where she started with her high school. She said this was as long she ever lived at one place.
She has finally achieved her dream by playing a pivotal role in a development of the MSA of Wayne State.
She is a young woman who is unafraid to speak her mind, and stand behind what she believes in.
She is truly a driving force within the Muslim community, Shafer said.
â€œHer understanding of otherâ€™s views, keeping in touch with the ideas, attitudes, and moods of the MSAâ€™s members, her creative outlook on how to bring the members close together, for the greater cause of the betterment of humanity, makes her an excellent president,â€ Amin said.