Faith Inspires: Muslim Student Association At UNC Asheville

Editor's note: Every week, HuffPost Religion shines a spotlight on religious people doing good work in their communities. If you would like to recommend a faith-inspired organization, initiative or person in your community, send an email to or tweet to @huffpostrelig using the hashtag #faithinspires.

This week's Faith Inspires highlights the Muslim Student Association at the University of North Carolina - Asheville for its pioneering social justice and interfaith work in that mountain town.

When Amarra Ghani transferred to UNC-Asheville, there wasn't exactly a vibrant Muslim community waiting with open arms. In fact, the Muslim student population was next to nonexistent. So in the fall of 2010 she decided to start a chapter. The first person to help her? Another new transfer, Maayan Schechter, who happens to be Jewish.

In August 2011, MSA hosted the first-ever official Iftar celebration on the UNC campus. Eighty people showed up to break the Ramadan fast. Not bad for a college community that counts somewhere between six and 10 Muslim students in its population. This turn out -- and the ongoing collaborative events co-sponsored by MSA -- speaks to the open-mindedness of Asheville's students. Last week, the convivial spirit was pronounced. MSA co-hosted a Shabbat dinner at the campus Hillel, a Jewish community center, that included interfaith, Jewish and Muslim prayers. More than 60 participated.

MSA has collaborated with other faith-based and ethnic organizations on campus to raise money for humanitarian causes and educate students about religious diversity. The organization's motivation is perhaps best summed up in the interfaith prayer used during the recent Shabbat dinner:

O God, you are the source of life and peace.

Praised be your name forever.

We know it is you who turns our minds to thoughts of peace.

Hear our prayer in this time of crisis.

Your power changes hearts.

Muslims, Christians, and Jews remember, and profoundly affirm,

that they are followers of the one God,

Children of Abraham, brothers and sisters;

enemies begin to speak to one another;

those who were estranged join hands in friendship;

nations seek the way of peace together.

Strengthen our resolve to give witness to these

truths by the way we live.

Give to us:

Understanding that puts an end to strife;

Mercy that quenches hatred, and

Forgiveness that overcomes vengeance.

Empower all people to live in your law of love


WATCH "Is Religion Relevant?" a UNC-Asheville interfaith dialogue:

HuffPost Religion applauds the good works of the MSA at UNC Asheville. You can follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter.

Now, we want to hear from you! Who's making a positive impact in your community? Let us know by sending an e-mail to or tweeting to @huffpostrelig with the hashtag #faithinspires.