The young men of UTD's Alpha Lamda Mu (AΛM), the first 'Muslim-interest' fraternity in the United States that is spreading beyond North Texas. (Photo courtesy Alpha Lamda Mu (AΛM))

Religion

UTD Is Home to the First ‘Muslim Interest’ Fraternity; Now, It’s Expanding Beyond

It's an alternate network for young men looking for the community afforded by Greek life without all of the negatives.

At a time when colleges and universities are barring Greek organizations from holding social events and serving alcohol, one seems uniquely fitted to weather the storm. Alpha Lamda Mu (AΛM) has championed the abstinence of drugs and alcohol since its creation about six years ago.

It was named with the three letters that start in several chapters of the Quran: Alif Laam Meem. The values the frat stands by are Islamic, but it allows in non-Muslims, too. It calls itself a “Muslim-interest fraternity,” not a “Muslim fraternity,” which allows it to accept others. They take in young students from all backgrounds and condition them to be better men under an Islamic atmosphere. It’s an outlet for men to be open about different trials and emotions with a healthy support system of fraternity brothers. And it started at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Greek life is a nearly 200-year-old American institution. The current national president of AΛM, Bilal Ayoub, respects fraternities for creating deep networks and bonds of brotherhood between men. He sees it as parallel to his Islamic values of brotherly love.

“However, some fraternities have become diluted and there are a lot of bad connotations and bad events associated with fraternities. Those environments can be toxic,” Ayub says. “AΛM take the best of what frats have in America and leaves out what nationally doesn’t align with our [Islamic] values.”

Co-founders Ali Mahmoud and Araf Hossain started the first chapter in 2013 at UTD. Mahmoud, now a med student, says AΛM began from a need on campus. Mahmoud and Hossain started recruiting other students and found a Muslim-interest fraternity was a popular idea. But no one had stepped up to organize and create it. There are plenty of colleges with a Muslim Student Association. But Mahmoud said he felt those organizations didn’t quite include the community aspect that people interested in Greek life are searching for.

Ayub also says that the student association only caters to what he calls “masjid-going” Muslims, which accounts for less than 10 percent of American Muslims who are students.

“People we see coming to AΛM sometimes have never been to the masjid (mosque). Or Islam isn’t big in their family or big to them at that moment in their life. Regardless of why they come, they are able to be united by that one unique common denominator,” he says. “No matter what is happening in someone’s life, no matter what mistakes they have made or baggage they may come with… [members] are there and they are supporting each other.”

In the past five years, AΛM has spread nationally. A handful of chapters have dropped out because of a lack of interest, resources, or leadership issues. But there are currently five active chapters: the University of Texas at Dallas, University of California at San Diego, Cornell University, San Diego State, University of Toledo, and University of Wisconsin. A chapter at Texas Tech opened last month. In Dallas, the AΛM has tripled in size since last year alone. There are currently 32 active members locally, and more than 300 in the other chapters.

Adeel Ghayasuddin, the current president of AΛM at UTD, says the frat looks for two types of people to join: those who will make the fraternity better and those who will become better because of the fraternity.

“Anyone who is willing to try the AΛM experience, as long as they respect our ideas and values,” he said. “We have rejected people… frats are exclusive organizations.”

Non-Muslims are welcome to join and have joined in the past. Badal Rana, a graduate from the University of Texas at Dallas, converted to Islam in 2014 after joining the fraternity.

“I was looking into Islam at the time. My best friend was Muslim and he encouraged me to join AΛM”, says Rana. “I was at the doorstep of converting and [after joining the fraternity] I took my shahada (a Muslim proclamation of conversion).”

He says AΛM keeps him grounded.

“These are the same people who will reach out to you when they get engaged. And, they’re the same people who will be at your janazah (funeral),” Ghayasuddin says.

Hammad Fazlani, a recent UTD graduate and another AΛM member, says he’s found a group of people he can depend on. “It’s rewarding to have an environment where you can be comfortable with who you are and be able to confide in others. You enjoy their time and are responsible for each other.”

Last year, Fazlani, along with Ghayasuddin, were given an award by the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation for their commitment to the rights of women. In 2013, photos of AΛM protesting against domestic violence went viral.

AΛM’s events are primarily focused on community service. Public events on campus like “Hoops for a Cause” raise money for refugees in Texas. They also help at a yearly event — a Day of Dignity, hosted by Masjid Al-Islam where Muslim organizations collaborate to feed the homeless. Other events involve wilderness retreats. Members meet weekly, mixing serious discussions about the fraternity with casual hangs.

Mahmoud says his next project is to start a strong alumni network. Several members are in fields of medicine, law, engineering, and the arts. It makes sense to link them. He says AΛM is happy to be a part of the solution for young men in America who find their ethnicity and values are challenged. “Muslims have been in the [American] fabric since the beginning. It’s nice to see that we are owning up to that history,” he said. “They’re assisting America and allowing it to live up to what it says it is: an immigrant country.”

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