College fraternities have a reputation for wild parties and extreme bad behavior. However, at a new University of Texas fraternity, Muslims are re-defining what a fraternity is all about.
Called Alif Laam Meem, this fraternity in Dallas places its emphasis on charity work, self-improvement and mutual support. It has a policy of no alcohol and no outrageous activities.
This unique frat house has been created as a way for Muslim students to socialize together and enjoy college life without the drinking culture which is endemic in other groups.Their idea of partying is to get together to discuss their faith, and drive around the local area handing out sandwiches to the homeless.
Their initiation ceremony involves handing over $100 to be donated to charity; they can be distinguished by their bright red kufi caps.
The fraternity was founded by Ali Mahmoud shortly after he arrived as an undergraduate. He called it Alif Laam Meem in Arabic, which is a translation of the traditional Greek Alpha Lambda Mu.
He told the Independent Newspaper:“I’m a proud American Muslim, and I see no contradiction of those two titles. Islam is my moral compass that guides every aspect of my life, but it also leaves room for our cultural experiences.”
The Daily Mail reports that some Muslim groups have criticized Mr Mahmoud for joining a tradition which is often associated with excessive drinking and sexual promiscuity, but he insists it is important show that frats do not have to be decadent environments.
“Muslims have been having a hard time recently trying to understand what their role in society is, so to embrace this very traditional American organisation is a symbolic move,” he told the New York Daily News.
He rejected any suggestion that the in this fraternity, Muslims would be helped to integrate with mainstream U.S. culture, pointing out that most members are in fact natural-born Americans.
Alif Laam Meem have so far demonstrated against domestic violence, and have raised money for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The fraternity began a recruitment drive recently – and despite its religious foundation as a fraternity for Muslims, non-Muslims are welcome to apply.