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MSA hosts third annual MET event with guest speaker Imam Wisam Sharieff

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Photo courtesy of MSA.

More than 300 students gathered in the Great Hall of the Student Union on Friday night for UNC Muslim Students Association's third annual MSA MET. The event included a catered dinner, a photo booth and guest speaker Imam Wisam Sharieff.

Mina Bayraktar, the outreach chair of MSA, said the purpose of MSA MET, which stands for “Muslims Excelling Today,” is to host a speaker who exemplifies the idea of Muslim excellence in society and to inspire students to become the best versions of themselves in their respective fields. 

Many attendees said they were excited to be surrounded by their friends and the Muslim community. 

“I didn’t grow up in an area with a strong Muslim community. There weren't many Muslim people,” UNC sophomore Maya Albayyari said at the event. “So it means a lot to me, because it gives me the chance to connect with people from my religion and my culture that I didn’t get the chance to before.” 

When organizing the event, Bayraktar said MSA leadership recognized the importance of providing a space for students to be proud of their identity. She said that, as a Muslim student, she often feels like the minority in spaces around campus and that gatherings like MSA MET allow a place for people to feel less alone.

“It's a great opportunity to be proud of who you are because in a big college community, oftentimes, people feel lost,” Bayraktar said. “People don't know who they are, or they feel like they have to fit into a societal image that is foreign to them. So I think these kinds of events really encourage people to be proud of who they are.” 

Sharieff, the guest speaker, isa Quran teacher and creator of Quran Revolution, a program that aims to help people studying the Quran better understand and apply the teachings of the religious text. Bayraktar said because Sharieff makes the experience of learning the Quran easier and enjoyable for a lot of people, she thinks it was a good choice to have him speak at the event. 

In Islam, Bayraktar said there is a tradition of memorizing the Quran, not only for the blessings associated with its recitation, but also to preserve it in its original form. She said several students in UNC MSA have memorized the Quran themselves. 

In his speech, Sharieff told stories about his experiences, cracked jokes and recited Arabic words from the Quran to speak on how to strive for excellence as a Muslim. He also hosted a question and answer period during his talk. During this, Sharieff gave students advice on how to handle failure, the best way to prepare for Ramadan and how to find a balance between college life and Islam. 

“The main [goal] is really seeing role models in today's society who have succeeded — even though they were a minority, even though they were Muslim and society didn't really accept everything they had to bring to the table,” Bayraktar said.   

Dan Shallal, a first-year student at UNC, said although he was looking forward to the keynote speech, he was most excited to be among friends and others from the community.

“The Muslim community here is growing," Shallal said. "As we have more and more students, and more and more [first-years] incoming, we have more Muslims coming. Our influence is getting bigger and our community is getting stronger. To have an event like this where we have the Great Hall, funding, photo booths and we're able to bring an Imam like this — it's actually amazing.”

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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