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A new Muslim brotherhood sparks criticism — and that’s OK, folks

September 11, 2013

There’s a lot of buzz over the new fraternity at the University of Texas Dallas. It’s a Muslim frat, the only one in the country, according to reports I’ve read. Alpha Lamda Mu, also identified as Alif Laam Meem, will bring together young Muslim men with shared values that  set them apart from most other fraternities. These guys won’t be doing any keg stands. No mixers with sororities. They will focus on serving the community, networking and adhering to the guidelines of their faith.

From the Huffington Post:

Founder Ali Mahmoud told The Huffington Post that the idea for the group came about as he and a childhood friend settled into college life at the University of Texas, Dallas, and considered their social options. Mahmoud’s friend expressed his plans to join the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity to enjoy the social scene as well as the networking opportunities, particularly in the post-graduation context, but worried about the less academic aspects of being in a frat. They joked about how it would be great if a fraternity with Muslim values existed, and out of that joke, Alif Laam Meem was born.

So what precisely are Muslim values? I mean, aside from abstention from alcohol and pre-marital sex, what are the expectations for aspiring members? How do the brothers decide who makes the cut? The FAQ on the frat’s website offers a rather vague explanation (but stay tuned because a critic of this venture makes the story more interesting).

Alif Laam Meem will not tolerate any behavior that is outside of the boundaries of moral principles and mannerisms. We will have fun and enjoy ourselves as brothers, but we will not engage in any activities that are not allowed within the religion. … Our ultimate purpose is to serve and please Allah by following the model of manhood left by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Like I said, kinda vague. But it sounds very wholesome and lovely. Right? Adam Abboud, a Muslim student at Cornell University, says no. I stumbled upon his response to the Muslim fraternity chapter after some folks from a Listserv I’m on blasted his Tumblr piece as hateful. Personally,  I was relieved to find out that not everyone was doing cartwheels over Alpha Lamda Mu. Not that I opposed the formation of the frat. I don’t. But sometimes it’s nice to add more depth to the conversation. To hear a different point of view. And this one, happily, comes from a Muslim.

I am all for Muslim unity and coalition, but we need to revolutionize what that looks like, rather than adopting discriminatory structures.

Abboud’s piece is provocative in that it addresses homosexuality, gender identity, misogyny and equality. Read on, and remember, this is a Muslim man writing:

ALM operates under male, heterosexual, cis-gendered, heteronormative privilege and fundamental understandings of Islam. For one to join ALM, they must buy into a narrow understanding and interpretation of religion as defined by these “Muslim” leaders. ALM ultimately reproduces privilege in the Muslim community; the fraternity maintains male-hetero power structures within the ever-changing landscape of [Muslim Student Associations] and Muslim populations across college campuses.

Fascinating. And, I think, encouraging. It is always good to be reminded that people of the same religion are not monolithic in their worldview. Yes, let’s talk about the definition of  a “good Muslim.” Let’s hear different opinions among young Muslims on sexuality and gender. Good for the guys at UT Dallas who created something meaningful to them. And good for Adam Abboud for challenging everyone to consider the implications, which is not, in my book at least, being a “hater.”

In the interest of equality and giving the sisters their due: Alpha Lamda Mu is not the first Muslim foray into the Greek system. I did a little searching online and found this 2005 piece from AltMuslim. It looks like Gamma Gamma Chi is still going eight years later.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack permalink
    September 11, 2013 6:12 pm

    The Idea Of America is personal freedom guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of religion, speech, the press and peaceful assembly. A popular idea of the day encroaches on every aspect of these freedoms. I have many friends, neighbors and acquaintances of different genders from various religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds.

    Of this diversity it is the Constitutional right right of each of us has to exclusively choose without the permission of each other, to affiliate, assemble or organize along the lines of our chosen religion, race or ethnicity, but that does not give any of us the right to impose our values on each other, nor to force an existing entity to accept anyone whose religious beliefs, values or behavior are contrary, much less adversarial, to the terms of association.

    The deconstruction of personal choice will bring chaos_ not peace.

    If you don’t like someone’s terms of affiliation, organize your own.

    If it doesn’t matter what you believe, it doesn’t matter if you believe anything at all.

  2. November 27, 2013 5:37 am

    Hi Eileen, Glad to see you back posting again, even if it is only once every few months. I could get snarky about the Muslim frat (I wonder where they stand on wife-beating?) but in general I wouldn’t worry about a single-religion fraternity, or sorority, if there is one. There were several Jewish ones when I was in college many moons ago. I don’t recall any specifically-Christian ones, but I’d bet there was at least one. My grandfather was a KA at SMU in the 20s. Their primary requirement was sort of religious, i.e. you had to be Southern and preferably of Confederate descent. 😉 That may have changed. Hope all is well with you and yours.

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