This year’s annual Ivy Muslim Conference, held at the St. Thomas More Center from October 27 to 28, provided a unique platform for approximately 200 students from across the Ivy League and neighboring schools to engage in meaningful discussions. The conference, organized by the Yale Muslim Students Association and the Chaplain’s Office, aimed to address a wide range of topics, from personal religious identity to global issues such as the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Decade of Unity and Progress
The Ivy Muslim Conference, first launched in 2010, was the brainchild of Omer Bajwa, the director of Muslim Life in the Chaplain’s Office, and his wife, Lisa Kinney-Bajwa. Over the past decade, the event has grown into an annual tradition, enabling Muslim college students to come together, learn, and connect.
Empowering Through Knowledge
A highlight of this year’s conference was the keynote address by Ustadh Ubaydullah Evans, the first scholar-in-residence at the American Learning Institute for Muslims. Evans emphasized the importance of empowering students with a framework to contribute to their community. He underscored that every individual, regardless of their interests and abilities, has a role to play in shaping the future of the American Muslim community.
Balancing Faith and Life
During his speech, Evans delved into the concept of maintaining a balance between religious life (deen) and secular life (dunya). He encouraged the audience to practice Islam authentically while adhering to the boundaries of the religion, sparking conversations about living one’s faith in the modern world.
Covenant of Love
Evans responded to a student’s question about improving one’s relationship with God, emphasizing that it should be seen as a “covenant of love” rather than a transactional relationship. This perspective fosters a deeper and more meaningful connection with one’s faith.
Integrating with Communities
Evans also urged attendees to become integral and respected parts of the communities they inhabit. He emphasized that gaining credibility within these spaces is essential for creating substantial change and fostering understanding.
Coffee House Conversations
One of the unique components of the conference was the “Coffee House Conversations.” This event, conceived by Abdul-Rehman Malik, an associate research scholar and lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Yale Divinity School, offered students a platform to engage in discussions over coffee. The topics of discussion this year revolved around the Israel-Hamas conflict, allowing participants to share their personal connections to this pressing global issue.
Encouraging Civic Engagement
Malik highlighted the significance of these conversations in encouraging civic participation and community organizing among Muslim students. By addressing issues such as combatting Islamophobia, antisemitism, and anti-Black racism on campus, students gained a broader perspective on the human impulse toward freedom and justice.
Another crucial aspect of the conference was the “Changemakers’ Sessions.” The sessions aimed to provide students with insights into various career paths through the experiences and journeys of successful Muslim professionals. Speakers included individuals from diverse fields such as medicine, finance, and research, giving students a glimpse into the possibilities for their future careers.
Lisa Kinney-Bajwa mentioned that professional panels, a feature of the conference’s early years, were reintroduced this year. This decision came as a response to student feedback, indicating the organizers’ commitment to adapting and evolving the conference to meet the evolving needs of its participants.
The 2023 Ivy Muslim Conference was not merely an event but a platform for bridging communities, fostering understanding, and empowering the next generation of Muslim leaders. By engaging in discussions on diverse topics, from personal faith to global conflicts, and by learning from successful professionals, attendees left the conference with a renewed sense of purpose and a stronger commitment to building a more inclusive and compassionate world. The conference has come a long way since its inception in 2010, and as it evolves, it continues to fulfill its mission of bringing Muslim students together to explore the challenges and opportunities of being Muslim in the modern world.