The First Ever Muslim Student Association at Malden High School

All photos submitted by Hadjar Yousfi.

Being the most diverse high school in Massachusetts, it’d make sense for Malden High School  to have multiple clubs and groups designed for students to fully express their cultures and beliefs. However, after the prayer room in B324 was closed, Muslim students had no place in the school where they felt represented. So juniors Hadjar Yousfi, who is Head of Local News at The Blue and Gold, and Zineb Laghzaoui saw this as an opportunity to create a Muslim Student Association (MSA.)

Laghzaoui, MSA’s president, explained that she and Yousfi, the co-president, are the National Honor Society where they had to start a service project, something that would impact others and have long-lasting effects on the community and the school. “We decided to create the MSA club because we felt like it was necessary for High School, especially at Malden High. A lot of other high schools have MSA too; it’s only fair for us because a lot of times people misunderstand our religion and we just want to be able to represent it,” explained Laghzaoui.

MSA officer, Ilyes Ouldsaada, presenting.

On December 20th of 2022, the MSA had its first official meeting in, Italian teacher and MSA advisor Alessia Gugliemi’s classroom B336. During this first meeting, members of the club and the officers introduced themselves and their goals as an association.

This is the first MSA at MHS meaning that a lot of students were excited to hear about it. Members of the MSA shared a lot about what led them to join the club, like Sabrina KharKhach who said, “First off I’m Muslim. This is the first Muslim association at this school. I barely knew any Muslims at this school as is, so I was like, ‘Oh I could meet more people I can relate to.’”

Saia Hussain, another member, said that she joined the MSA because of the inclusivity, “we do have a pretty decent Muslim population at Malden High but there wasn’t really a way for us to have an actual group to meet up with other than the Mosque.” Hussain continued explaining that, “once I heard about the MSA, I was really thrilled to join it too because it’s always nice to meet people with the same interests.”

Being a newer association means that many people are unaware of these meetings so the MSA have thought of different ways to promote their club in the future. Keep up with the MSA’s Instagram page to stay informed of what’s happening next and If you’re interested in joining the MSA, fill out their registration form. However, it is not necessary in order to join the club.

MSA officer, Ali Zoulgami, presenting on January 21st.

In 2021, a senior and member of the National Honors Society, Jana Elshafey, requested to open a prayer room in the school. Around two months after its opening, due to the misuse of the room by students, it was closed. Hussain said that even though she didn’t use the prayer room much, she was still upset about it. “I was pretty outraged because it was a few students who just ruined it for everybody,” she continued, “it was such a nice thing too. Especially because I feel like Muslims, we have to be pretty careful on how we’re depicted by other people due to racial stereotypes being placed upon us. So I felt like that really did set us back a few years in terms of trying to separate ourselves from our stereotypes.”

In January 24th of 2023, the MSA had a meeting with Christopher Mastrangelo, Malden High’s principal, and Jason Payeur, Jenkins House Principal, to argue for the room’s re-opening. After a long wait, the MSA’s efforts seemed to have worked because, on March 23rd, Mastrangelo sent an email to the school confirming the re-opening of the room with a schedule for students to follow.

The MSA discussing the re-opening of the prayer room.

Societal discrimination often makes people feel like they can’t represent their own culture, background, or religion because of certain stereotypical ideologies placed on them. For years, Muslims have suffered through this which has discouraged many of them to put their beliefs into practice.

“I guess I’ve always struggled with my culture growing up,” said Hussain. She explained that growing up in a white-dominated middle school resulted in her not wanting to use her native tongue. She said, “it took me years to even be comfortable with telling people that I’m Pakistani. But honestly, I guess once you accept your culture is a part of you, you can’t really run away from it and it’s something that makes you who you are.”

With MHS’s diversity, students are allowed to build a place where they are represented in the school. Clubs like the Black Student Union and Asian Culture Connections allow students to express themselves with their cultures and beliefs. KharKhach says that this diversity is not only encouraging students to join these clubs but that It’s connecting more people together where students can learn new things about each other.

MSA officer, Ilyes Ouldsaada, presenting on March 7th.

MSA members felt that seeing other students so close to their communities inspired them to do the same. Hussain added, “once you meet a community of people who are very similar to you it just helps you a lot in terms of self-evaluation, self-confidence, and things like that.”

For KharKhach, she says that the MSA has helped her become more comfortable talking about religion and making new friends, “there are things I’ve learned here that I haven’t been taught yet and I’ve been to a lot of Arabic schools and Muslim programs and I still learned [new] things here,” said KharKhach.

The MSA’s main goal is to represent and spread awareness about their lifestyle. It’s an opportunity for Muslim students to not only gain a sense of community but also allow for non-muslim students to learn about Islam, “there’s a lot of misunderstanding about Muslims in general and I feel like it’s nice when people come here and understand our purpose and what we’re actually like,” said Laghzaoui. 

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