MSA brings to light why religion and culture should not be viewed as one in the same

Engineering sophomore Muhammad Ali of Saint Charles, Missouri babysits during Culture Affair at Evergreen.

At the Culture Affair hosted by the Muslim Student Association, people of the Muslim faith came together to celebrate belief and put cultural differences aside for the sake of bringing together their brothers and sisters of Islam.

Every attendee came wearing the clothes representative of their own culture in order to represent the diversity present within Islam.

SIUE alumna Zia Ansari, rather than giving a speech, opened up a discussion for everyone who attended. He focused on separating the cultural aspects of life from Islam as a religion.

“The new generation who are living in this community is really confused about ‘what is culture? Are we allowed to do this because of our culture, or are we doing this because of Islam?’” Ansari said. “So they are getting really confused. What is happening is they don’t know if they are Muslim or not.”

Separating culture and religion is an important distinction to make in Ansari’s eyes because it causes confusion for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

“We blame non-Muslims for the stereotypes they have against Islam, but we do not see that we are part of the problem too. So if we are confusing our own kids, just think about how much we are confusing the people who really do not know about Islam,” Ansari said.

Public administration graduate student Rima Abusaid spoke specifically about how blending culture and religion creates division between people.

“Everybody likes to feel like they’re superior, and that’s where culture came to existence. Every tribe, every nation, as a group we all like to feel like we’re superior to other groups,” Rima Abusaid said.

She went on to explain how this is still a problem that needs to be addressed before there can be unity.

“If we’re really going to be honest with ourselves, this still exists today. We need to basically acknowledge that it’s still happening today for it to go away later,” Rima Abusaid said.

Alumna Faiza Khan went on to give her perspective on how being culturally different is okay as long as it does not affect important areas of the Islamic faith.

“I personally feel like it’s okay to be different on cultural basis, but when it comes to reading the laws or when it comes to fasting, when it comes to reading Quran, there might be a different veil reading it, but your core needs to stay the same,” Khan said.

Ansari expressed his ideas of what part Muslims should play in helping to create the distinction for those viewing from the outside.

“We are the ambassadors of Islam. We should first properly follow Islam,” Ansari said. “Showcase culture, but do not follow wrong ones.”

Rendeh Abusaid, from Florissant, Missouri, referred to the idea of just embracing that you’re Muslim and separating the culture aspects from the religion as people of any culture can be of the Muslim faith.

“The person that really comes to mind for me, believe it or not, is Malcolm X. I actually took a class back in college where our professor had spoken about Malcolm X, and one thing that Malcolm X really believed in was being an African American and really embracing that culture,” Rendeh Abusaid said.

She told a story about when Malcolm X went to Hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and thought only African Americans were a part of Islam, but had his mind changed when he went.

“When he ended up going to Hajj, he was amazed by what he saw. He was able to go to Saudi Arabia and see that, ‘Oh, wow, this person is white,’ and the one quote that stood out to me was, ‘I saw somebody who was white with blue eyes,’ and said, ‘That’s a Muslim, that’s a fellow Muslim,’” Rendeh Abusaid said.

For more information, visit the Muslim Student Association’s Get Involved page at


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