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ISSUE 117 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/27/2004

Muslim Student Association takes on new voice

By Jaruwan Punyoyai
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 27, 2004

Providing a successful Norwegian program as an alternate language choice has helped give St. Olaf a reputation of keeping up St. Olaf's Norwegian traditions. However, language enthusiasts at have a new reason to be proud. Khider Elnimeir `07 has brought Arabic to St. Olaf.

Elnimeiry, a native of Sudan, is helping Islamic culture and the Arabic language flourish on campus. He first became involved while attending meetings for the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

"I asked if anyone was interested in learning Arabic, and they were, so I said I'd teach them," Elnimeiry said. Every Tuesday throughout the year, many students of different races and backgrounds convene with him in Flaten Hall to learn his native language.

Elnimeiry is a natural in the classroom. He hands back the past week's quizzes with his sleeves rolled up, ready to work. He is all-smiles as he encourages his class on their newest quiz. With 15 words written on the board, he leaves the room in complete silence. As his students work, the atmosphere crackles with intense focus. It's not difficult to recognize that the students take their lessons very seriously. Elnimeiry comes back in the room, collects the quizzes and begins to answer questions. His students ask thoughtful questions, and understandably, there are many.

With the eloquence of a college professor, he answers all questions and begins orally quizzing the class on their new set of vocabulary. In addition to proficient teaching, it's the little things about Elnimeiry that stand out. He knows all of his students' names, and his charisma can turn the most frustrating Arabic idiom into laughter.

Elnimiery has nothing but praise for the MSA and its president Salah Mohamed `07. The MSA is responsible for the creation of a Mosque in Flaten hall and are also working to educate students about the Islamic faith.

"Too often people judge the book by its cover. All I want to do is give them the book so they can read it. They don't even have to listen to me. If they read the book, they will see that they were misconceived," Mohamed said. Elnimeiry, who is also Vice-President of the MSA, agrees that there are many misconceptions that need to be cleared-up. Because of their dedication to informing St. Olaf community, the MSA has opened and stocked an Islamic library. The Mosque and library, located in Flaten 42, are open to all students for study or worship. The same applie to the MSA meetings. "There was a lot of energy for the meetings and the Association this year (the second year). 30 people showed up the first day," Mohamed said.

Mohamed and Elnimeiry also credit several other students and staff members with helping them establish the MSA. Mustafa Dualeh `06 has served as liaison between the MSA and staff members. Kathy Glampe, director of Student Support Service; LaRue Pierce, assistant dean of students and Greg Knesser, dean of students have been instrumental in the formation of the MSA.

As for Elnimeiry, he doesn't plan on teaching forever. He expects major in biology or embark on a pre-medicine professional track, but he hopes that St. Olaf will one day hire an Arabic teacher. He predicts that an Arabic class would help to further distinguish St. Olaf from other private colleges.

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