Student starts first Muslim culture club

Muslim+culture+club+was+founded+by+Afnan+Gabir+to+help+empower+Muslim+students.

Bailey Niles

Muslim culture club was founded by Afnan Gabir to help empower Muslim students.

Julia Bychowski, Staff Reporter

Wanting to build a community of empowered Muslim students, junior Afnan Gabir founded Vandegrift’s first Muslim culture club. The first meeting was on Sept. 27 in Spanish teacher Valerie Ahrens’ room, and the 28 members in attendance were ecstatic.
“When we were talking to the people in our first meeting, they were all really excited and happy because they always wanted to see who [was Muslim] around them,” sophomore and secretary Layali Hassan said. “It’s definitely empowering them and making them feel like they’re not alone, and [that] they have a community.”
In the club’s first meeting, members and officers introduced themselves, and shared their knowledge about Islam. President Afnan Gabir hopes that the club will show Muslim individuals that it’s ok to be Muslim and to be proud and embrace their faith.
“It’s much harder because so many people are ignorant about the Muslim community [here] because there isn’t a big one. If there is, the Muslims are afraid to speak out,” Gabir said. “We feel that we’re different, and we feel that we’re alienated and it just makes it harder for us to unite or express ourselves.”
The lack of Muslim representation in school curriculum unfortunately often leads to misinformation and misinterpretation about Islam. In order to help break down the stereotypes, the club welcomes people of all backgrounds to come and learn more about the community.
“I feel like [it will] help them feel safe too,” sophomore and treasurer Dana Zohnny said. “Because [when] my sister comes to high school, hopefully it [will help] her feel more comfortable.”
Many of the members were excited to find people they could relate to, and build deep connections with during just the first meeting of the year. The officers hope to continue this for future students at Vandegrift who want to be a part of the community.
“We want to maintain the Muslim community.” junior and vice president Noor Altuwaijiri said. “And we [already] have other Muslim friends that want to take over, so we want to definitely keep the Muslim community connected.”
For seniors, the club strives to make an impact on not only their faith, but also their passion to become leaders in their community, and spark their own change in college or wherever they may be.
“And some goals are that we obviously want it to grow and expand and others to learn about it,” Gabir said. “[But also] to have like fundraisers or fundraising events, and maybe have membership dues.”
In the future, the club hopes they will be able to help people around the world by raising money and volunteering for things like the Palestinian relief fund, and Pakistani flood efforts. Especially with the tragic killing of Mahsa Amini in Iran, and the following protests, their efforts will be more important than ever.
“It’s a place where we can meet up, talk about issues, and strengthen our faith a little bit,” president Afnan Gabir said. “And just get to know other Muslims in the community and teach others about Islam.”