Local nonprofit provides inclusive space for Muslims in Austin

Tehreem Shahab

In a small room crowded with men, women and children, a chalkboard reads “Muslim Space: Where You Belong.” Muslim Austinites took the opportunity to write their own messages on the board, such as “#Islam4All” and “Be Muslim, Be Proud.”

Muslim Space is an Austin-based nonprofit that launched Sunday. As a community organization, it serves to provide an inclusive space for all self-identifying Muslims in the Austin area, and it plans to host a variety of faith-based, service-based and social programs. Executive director Shadia Igram said Muslim Space is supposed to be complementary to other Islamic centers and mosques.

“We really need to think about the community and the spectrum of American Muslims living here,” Igram said. “We want to create a space with a sense of fluidity, that you can be in and out of the Muslim space and you don’t feel like you have to change yourself … We are not trying to compete with a mosque or draw folks away, we are just simply trying to create a complementary institution.”

Some of the programs Muslim Space plans to offer are community potlucks and game nights, as well as Quran classes facilitated by community members rather than scholars. Advertising sophomore Yasmeen Aossey, who was present at the launch, said she wants to see Muslim Space address the lack of gender inclusivity, which she believes is a result of culture intertwining with religion.

“One of the issues I have personally is that there’s a separation between men and women (in mosques) with some sort of wall or curtain,” Aossey said. “I feel like it’s more of a cultural thing that we have to do that, and a lot of the cultural aspects are being brought in the mosque which should only be just religion-based — it should not have any cultural influences on it.”

Computer science freshman Aafia Ahmad said Muslim Space would be a good way for her to meet the Muslim community outside of UT.

“I like the Muslim Student Association, but I think (Muslim Space) is also a good way to get involved and meet people throughout Austin and not just UT,” Ahmad said.

Muslim Space does not have a physical space or office, but Muna Hussaini, president of the organization, said they hope to have an office once they have more members.

“We are hoping to have a permanent space,” Hussaini said. “But our plan to get there is to build a membership base … If we can get to (a) certain amount of sustaining members, then we will be able to build a plan to get us a space.”