The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) has elected the first Muslim student to serve as its president at the school which brands itself as America’s “oldest Catholic and Jesuit institute of higher learning.
Enushe Khan joined the board of the university Muslim Student Association (MSA) soon after arriving at Georgetown, and served as chair of Interfaith and Service for five semesters, reports The Hoya – the school’s oldest and largest student newspaper.
According to the report, Khan’s Muslim identity has been an integral part of her campus activism from the start of her academic career at Georgetown. During her freshman year, Khan was elected to a seat on the GUSA after she observed a lack of halal foods that are required under Islamic dietary law on the school’s campus.
“Food was a big issue, and that was sort of affecting my health,” Khan said. “That was a common trend with other Muslim students as well. It’s something that was never a concern for Dining or Auxiliary Services until it really came up in GUSA.”
While a member of the GUSA senate, Khan reportedly called for both more halal and kosher foods to be more readily available at Georgetown’s dining facilities. As an MSA board member, she also worked to expand interfaith programming with other faith groups on campus.
Khan said as GUSA president, she hopes to continue the same outreach she performed while on the MSA board.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), however, observes that the MSA of the United States and Canada was incorporated in January 1963, when members of the Muslim Brotherhood came together at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with the goal of “spreading Islam as students in North America.”
“Islamic extremism is on the rise on college and university campuses across the United States,” IPT continues. “The spread of radical Islamism on campuses has proven to be an effective tool to garner support and gain legitimacy, exploiting the right of free association with academic institutions.”
Muslim Chaplain Imam Yahya Hendi said Khan’s election mirrors the Georgetown student body’s commitment to electing the most qualified candidate.
“You have students from all over the world who came together to elect someone for the betterment of the community on the basis of what she can do, not on the basis of her gender, religion or ethnic background,” Hendi said. “And that’s what we need worldwide.”
Khan’s running mate and the GUSA’s next vice president is Chris Fisk – a first generation college student and a member of the Georgetown Scholarship Program. As a Georgetown student who was only able to attend the school due to the financial aid package he received, Fisk said affordability is essential to the creation of a more diverse campus.
“One thing is getting acceptance letters for people who are of low income, but it’s another thing getting financial aid packages,” Fisk said. “When I got my financial aid package from GSP, that was the day I knew I was coming to Georgetown, not necessarily when I got my acceptance letter.”
Khan said her religious identity and Fisk’s socio-economic distinction made their campaign for office a success.
“I think a big part of why this ticket happened and why this team happened, a lot of it played into our identities of coming from a sort of nontraditional Georgetown,” Khan said.
GUSA Freshman senator Saad Bashir said Khan and Fisk’s election reveals Georgetown’s commitment to tolerance and inclusivity.
“This election affirms some key values that Georgetown prides itself on such as equality and diversity, but it also tells the world that Georgetown’s student body will not sit idly as people’s faith or race or whatever reason is attacked,” Bashir said.
“I can speak to how the Muslim community has tended to really isolate itself in the past,” Khan says. “You have these communities, these pockets here on campus who feel like they can’t engage with the rest of the Georgetown community. A big thing for us is how can we work with these groups to create a Georgetown where that’s no longer a fear.”
Nevertheless, IPT maintains that the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced MSA often uses college and university campuses as a means to gain support through campaigns based on diversity and tolerance.
“International and domestic groups that advocate extremist or radical causes frequently host lectures and other events on campuses to shore up support and recruit members,” IPT states. “Indeed, universities are a fertile field for radicals searching for the next generation of activists and sympathizers.”