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January 15, 2014 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-01-15

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2B R . .

Wenesday, January 15, 2014 // The Statement 7B

campus mechanics: the donors and the best by amrutha sivakumar

Personal Statement: 'Am I fighting with God?'
by Amre Metwally

Four billion dollars. That's how University apathy; the resources
much the University will raise that have gone into developing its
in the Victors for Michigan cam- Counseling and Psychological Ser-
paign, its most ambitious fund- vices and countless other preven-

\ a
I+3s fl
,l

tion programs
say otherwise.
However, an
eagerness to
donate stems
from a posi-
tive zeal. An
inspirational,
and optimisti-
cally presented
"Leaders and
the Best" video
does just that.
When
the cam-
paign finally
launched in
the beginning
of November, it
faced its share
of setbacks.
In the midst
of the Victors

ILLUSTRATION BY MEGAN MULHOLLAND
raising initiative to date. But don't for
expect the University to just sit theI
back and relax, hoping donors will and
act under their own philanthrop- Big
it impulses to put their money face
toward the University. Everything shor
that the University does can be sugg
expected to be a carefully calcu- late
lated endeavor, and the process of don(
convincing donors to invest their dan'
resources in the University may the
just be a formula. gam
A Viewpoint published in The thei
Michigan Daily not long after A
the capital campaign's launch the
expressed contempt over the fact and
that while promotional materials tage
showcased the remarkable feats figh
of the "leaders and the best" on tion
campus, they failed to address the Mic
needs of students that feel unsafe, cost
are suffering from mental health was
illnesses or were survivors of byI
sexual violence. It's unlikely that used
this neglect was a result of the corn

already contributed. Philanthropic
psychologist Jen Chang told the
New York Times in a Nov. 2012
interview that trust and apprecia-
tion act as primary incentives for
donors. The combination of thank-
ful reciprocity that donors receive
and their ability to direct their gift
to an area that inspires them makes
an enormous difference.
No one does anything without
getting anything in return, and for
donors, payback comes in the form
of happiness. Economists widely
uphold the view that our mon-
etary spendings reflect the utility
we receive from it. In other words,
donors will spend as long as they
receive something worth the dona-
tion in return - whether it be a
physical form of appreciation, like
a named building, or general sense
of pleasure. A study conducted by
academics at Simon Fraser Uni-
versity, the University of British
Columbia and Harvard Business
School found that the happiness
that came from pro-social dona-
tions was largest when donors
were giving to a cause that fostered
high social connections.
So tell me, what has larger social
connections than givingback to the
University largely responsible for
your professional success, joined by
more than 540,000 other alumni
all over the world and appreciated
for years to come by a 200-year-old
University and its students? When
University President Mary Sue
Coleman recognized University
alum Steven Ross' $200 million
donation to the Business school
and the Athletic Department, Busi-
ness students congregated before
their early-morning classes to cel-
ebrate. At the following Saturday's
football game, students held up a
Thank You banner in his name.
Arid that was Ross maximizing
his utility. But we are happy to let
him.

Michigan campaign rollout,
Michigan football team played
lost against Nebraska at the
House, and Coach Brady Hoke
d his first loss at home, falling
rt 13-17. Happiness research
gests that good feelings trans-
to good deeds. If potential
ors and alumni were in atten-
ce that windy Saturday before
campaign celebrations, the
ie's loss would have likely upset
r philanthropic mindset.
11 hopewasnotlost. Ifanything,
Victors for Michigan campaign
the University have an advan-
over most other organizations
ting for donations. The celebra-
s leading up to the Victors for
higan campaign launch that
the University over $750,000
, according to a Nov. 13 report
The Michigan Daily, not only
d to motivate donors, but to
memorate the donors that had

"Memleket ne?" ("What's your
country?" or for the dramatically
oriented, "What's your home-
land?")
"Teacher, you are Arab, not
American."
"Teacher, don't worry, you are
like us."
"Teacher, are you Muslim?"
These questions and remarks
have become the soundtrack to
my Life After Graduation, my new
life in Turkey. While such direct- A
ness and generalizations (Have
you heard of hybridization?) may
have bothered me in Ann Arbor, I
find myself sighing in relief when
my new Turkish countrywomen
and countrymen assure me that I
belong. They consider me one of
"Them." It feels like a tease, this
idea that I could be a part of their
community.
I've always been a thinker. An
over-thinker. I read books until W
words literally don't make sense; ca
I mull over things until I've made is
myself dizzy from going in cir- ef
cles. The constant self-reflection m
and inquiry is fuel for a perpetual so
identity crisis. Am I like every-
one else? Am I Arab, Egyptian or do
American? Am I Muslim? gi
During my time at the Uni- w
versity, I became increasingly so
interested with personal and aca- bi
demic questions on migration, s
identity and community. This su
obsession only grew as I got the w
chance to travel and do research de
every summer, visit countless jo
countries and swap life stories pt
with people whose narratives
countered, complemented and a;
contrasted my own. Late night cl
conversations with Muslims in ti
diaspora inevitably reached the th
topic of religion. Some practiced tl
Islam's pillars with devotion, m
others couldn't care less about is
what the Qur'an told them and ar
the rest quietly stifled doubts at
and frustrations. They all called fo
themselves Muslim. sh
We seek religion to answer it
fundamental questions about our al
existence. We seek religion to n
provide us with a moral compass. c
We seek religion for its potency w
as a political organizing force.

f T I'T 6.k
D0r3T fix i T
Ve also seek religion because it Musl
an shelter us from loneliness and foun
olation. It is, at its very least, an in de
fficient community builder: It that,
akes us feel like we belong in for ..
me group, in some place. ate f
We seek community out on a muc
aily basis. It's not only a reli- ing1
io0s desire, but a human one. It's grou
hat makes Football Saturdays ultin
memorable, graduation day so addr,
ttersweet and postgraduate life of rc
o hard to adjust to. Community prob
ustains us and drives much of with
hat we think. It explains our defir
esire to stay on an athletic team, dime
'in a student organization or M
irsue a new career path. in m
My most defining experiences demi
s a Muslim on campus were most dowi
early illuminated when I ques- 1.
oned the notion of community in of
hat we create for ourselves at Pare
he University. Cultivating com- 2.
unity is an active process but it 3.
n't easy. It asks us to self-reflect us.
nd to make difficult decisions W
bout what values are important to wi
or us to live by. Yet, if we take a ence
hared identity and simply accept one 1
, then that passive acceptance atic:
lso removes the personal growth C
ecessary to build the sustaining foun
ommunities and relationships plur
e all want and deserve. "Mu
Whenever I got involved with ents

im affairs on campus,
A myself dispirited, ang
nial. They really didn't s
did they? They punished h
dancing? They are despe
or power! In spite of that a
h more, I found myself sta
with the group. The intr
p tensions I witnessed - a
nately embarked upon
ess with a passionate gro
'le model individuals - a
lems within any communi
in any religion that tries
ne itself statically and on
nsionally.
uslim intragroup dynami
y limited personal and a
.ic knowledge, can be boil
n to a few mindsets:
Put on a happy face. Kno
ther circles as the Fighti
nts Syndrome.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
You either join us, or lea
hile all three prove diffic
itness, learn about, or expe
I want to focus on the th
here. It is especially proble
It espouses conformity.
ommunity building, ati
dation, is about balanci
ality and commonality. T'
slim" label helps its adh
but can, as any label u

way of thinking and living as
the minority in a minority in a
majority is completely unrav-
V =eled. It becomes unnecessary,
even boring, to talk about reli-
Gpu QLjb gion. If everyone is of the same
faith, a broad label, then what
creates community? It is an
active process, people choos-
ing who they want to be around
\Il based on compatibility and
other intangible values. But I've
been told growing up that your
friends are the Muslims, and
that's where to start.
Where do I go now? In my
four months here, I've seen all
sorts of Muslims, from the secu-
lar crowd to the wholly devout,
N4 hold hands and walk together,
choosing not to exclude based
on how they choose to practice.
I've met some of my closest
ILLUSTRATION BY MEGAN MULHOLLAND friends through the Michigan
I mately does, exclude others from Muslim community. The com-
ry, participating. How, then, do we munity has done so much: invited
ay address diversity in the Muslim Prof. Tareq Ramadan, launched
er community? Sounds a lot like try- civic engagement and coali-
er- ing to fit a square peg in a round tion building efforts, organized
nd hole, right? weekly Friday prayers, conduct-
ay- Many problems our commu- ed intragroup dialogues and held
ra- nity has faced, from classism to large public events such as the
nd racism and sexism, are not inher- Hijabi Monologues to celebrate
to ently Muslim problems. They being "Muslim" in the face of
up become Muslim problems when harmful stereotypes.
are individuals comfort their anti- Whenever I encountered the
ty, quated ideologies and selves by good and the bad that came with
to cherry-picking lines and verses this group, that nagging question
ae- from the word of God. When oth- emerged: Is this a forced, piece-
ers defend every offensive stance, meal community held together
cs, comment, question and action by a religious label that every
ca- with line and verse from the individual sees differently? Or is
ed Qur'an, it becomes hard to speak this an organic one formed out of
up and refute. Am I fighting with a purely innocent desire to cele-
wn God? Am I saying the Holy Book brate our shared experiences and
ng is wrong? Are they ... right? differences?
Despite the frustrations and Now as I find myself - an
t. alienation I've felt for thinking alumnus, an American, a Muslim,
ve differently - or in some situa- an Egyptian and so much more
*ions, just thinking in general - I - alone and painstakingly try-
ult }ind myself asking the same ques- ing to create my own community,,;,
'ri 'ion I do whenever I go to a new in Turkey, the question becomes,
ird ;lace: Where are my Muslims at? "Does it even matter?"

COVER BY NICK CRUZ

M-
its
ing
'he
er-
lti-

Now, as I try to settle into life
away from my friends, family and
community, I find a new para-
digm, one that is the exact oppo-
site of my own upbringing. Nearly
everyone in Turkey is "Muslim"
in some sense of the word. My

Amre Metwally graduated
from the University in 2013. He
received a Fulbright grant, and is
currently working in Turkey.

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