Other Group

Muslims Students Association (MSA)




Islamic association



Board Chair:

Nimrah Riaz

Contact InfluenceWatch with suggested edits or tips for additional profiles.

The Muslim Students Association (MSA) is an Islamic community and advocacy group with chapters in universities throughout the United States and Canada. The MSA was originally founded with support from the Muslim Brotherhood and the government of Saudi Arabia, but has since distanced itself from foreign groups. MSA chapters have a large degree of independence, allowing varying levels of religious conservatism and liberalism. 1

MSA chapters are largely regarded as benign clubs for Muslim students which promote community. MSA’s website has guides for students to establish prayer rooms and celebrate Islamic holidays on campus. 2 However, over the last few decades, MSA chapters have occasionally run into controversy over free-speech issues and possible connections to terrorist activity.

As of 2020, there were 601 MSA chapters in the United States. 3


The Muslim Students Association was founded in 1963 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champlain. The Muslim Brotherhood, a trans-national group often associated with radical Islamic political movements, helped found the MSA, though MSA leadership later claimed that the Brotherhood’s influence faded over time. 4 Early funding was provided by the Muslim World League, an NGO funded by the government of Saudi Arabia, to support Arab students abroad and to proselytize. 5

Numerous Muslim groups were founded by MSA members and leaders, including the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of Noth America, the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers, the Association of Muslim Social Scientists, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, and the Muslim American Society. 6

A 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood strategy memo, which identified its goal as a “kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,” listed MSA among “our organizations and the organizations of our friends.” 7


In the 1990s, student leaders of U.S.-based Muslim Student Association chapters decided on a policy of only receiving funding from American sources. 8 While most funding comes from universities, the MSA also raises funds from individual small donors 9 and from grantmaking foundations including the Proteus Fund. 10

Accusations of Connections to Terrorism

New York Police Department

In 2012, the Associated Press reported that the New York Police Department had been monitoring Muslim Student Association groups across the northeast, including at the City College of New York, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, St. John’s University, Rutgers University, Yale University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Infiltration tactics included the use of undercover agents infiltrating MSAs, including sending an undercover police officer on a rafting trip to record student names. Officers also monitored Muslim professors at universities with MSA chapters. 11

The NYPD has called MSA chapters “potential incubators” for terrorism due to the age and demographics of members. 12 In 2007, the NYPD issued a report which alleged: “Among the social networks of the local university population, there appears to be a growing trend of Salafi-based radicalization that has permeated some Muslim student associations (MSA’s). Extremists have used these university-based organizations as forums for the development and recruitment of likeminded individuals.” 13

The NYPD identified seven “MSAs of concern” because of suspected extremist activity within them. Six branches at City University of New York campuses and one at St. John’s University were investigated because they allegedly had Salafi-extremist guest speakers or participating students had suspected terror ties. Forty-three professors at CUNY School of Law issued a statement warning that the NYPD had possibly violated students’ civil rights. 14

The NYPD reported that as of 2012, 12 individuals arrested or charged with terrorism-related crimes had been members of the MSA. 15

Investigative Project on Terrorism

The right-of-center Investigative Project on Terrorism has accused the MSA of promoting Islamism and even Jihadism in the United States through the publication of radical materials, the hosting of radical speakers, providing support to suspected terrorists, and connections to various Islamic terrorist organizations. 16


Saskatchewan Chapter Claims of Islamophobia

In 2022, the head of the Muslim Student Association chapter at the University of Saskatchewan accused the university administration of “institutionalized Islamophobia” for refusing to allow Muslim students to significantly reschedule exams occurring during Ramadan, a month-long holiday in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The MSA leader claimed that the fasting and prayers required during the month impacted the mental health of Muslim students and their ability to do tests. The university administration permitted rescheduling by one day, but the MSA insisted this was not sufficient. 17

American University Seder Cancellation

Also in 2022, the American University MSA chapter withdrew from co-hosting an interfaith seder over the university’s Hillel group’s support for Israel, which the MSA called “a settler-colonial and apartheid state.” 18

Alberta Chapter Speakers

In 2016, University of Alberta professor Junaid Jehangir, who is a Muslim, spoke out against his university’s MSA chapter after it invited four Islamic scholars to speak at the school who espoused pro-Caliphate and anti-gay views. 19

Anti-Trump Protests

Also in 2016, numerous Ivy League University MSAs hosted protests against then-President-elect Donald Trump. The MSA at the University of Pennsylvania, President Trump’s alma mater, hosted a Brief Trauma Focused Workshop intended to combat the president’s rhetoric. The Yale University MSA launched a fundraiser to fund anti-Trump activities with a $20,000 goal. 20

Israeli Ambassador Speech Disruption

In 2015, the MSA chapter at the University of California, Irvine was suspended for one year after 11 members were arrested for disrupting a speech given by then-Israeli ambassador to the United States Michel Oren. After the incident, 60 faculty members signed an open letter claiming there was an atmosphere of anti-Semitism at the school. 21

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In 2014, the leaders of 35 campus organizations at Yale University signed a letter drafted by Yale’s MSA chapter criticizing the university administration for inviting Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak on campus. Ali is a controversial figure who grew up in Somalia in an Islamic fundamentalist family. After undergoing extensive abuse, she fled to the West and became an outspoken critic of Islam, as well as a member of parliament in the Netherlands and a scholar at the Hoover Institution and American Enterprise Institute. The MSA letter accused Ali of lacking the credentials to speak authoritatively about Islam, and of having a “long record of disparaging, and arguably hateful, comments about Muslims and Islam.” The MSA did not demand the cancelling of Ali’s event, but requested additional speakers with opposing views or an outlet for students to voice opposition to Ali. 22

Terrorism Awareness Project

In 2008, the Terrorism Awareness Project, a student initiative co-founded by Stephen Miller, a future policy advisor in the Trump administration, called for universities to defund MSA chapters to combat “Islamofascism.” The libertarian Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) publicly defended MSA on free speech grounds. 23

Aafia Siddiqui

Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistan-born Muslim, was a member of the Muslim Students Association in the 1990s while attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the mid-2000s, Siddiqui was arrested by Afghan police and turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on suspicion of working as a courier for Al-Qaeda. She was eventually moved to the United States, and in 2010 was sentenced to 86 years in prison after being charged with assault and attempted murder of a U.S. solider. 24

Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi

In 2001, the MSA chapter at the University of Southern California invited Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi to speak on campus. Hashemi, who spoke six months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, was associated with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and claimed that the United States was exaggerating the terrorist threat posed by Osama Bin Laden. 25 26 27


MSA chapters have been accused of discriminating against Muslims who are not Arab or from Southeast Asia, particularly African Muslims. 28


  1. Macfarquhar, Neil. “For Muslim Students, a Debate on Inclusion.” The New York Times, February 21, 2008. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/21/education/21muslim.html.
  2. “Resources: Toolkits and Guides.” Muslim Students Association. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.msanational.org/resources.
  3. “About: 2020 Year in Review.” MSA. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.msanational.org/2020-year-in-review.
  4. Ahmed-Ullah, Noreen S.; Roe, Sam; Cohen, Laurie. “A rare look inside the secretive Brotherhood in America.” Chicago Tribune. September 19, 2004. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20100614075958/http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/chi-0409190261sep19,0,4605917,full.story
  5. El Horr, Jane; Saeed, Sana. “Campus Radicals: A New Muslim Student Group Tries to Rouse the Moderates.” The Wall Street Journal. June 20, 2008. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121391832473590285.
  6. Husain, Altaf. “MSA National: For 50 Years. ‘Students’ Has Been Its Middle Name.” Huffington Post. January 2, 2013. Updated March 4, 2013. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/msa-national-for-50-years_b_1940707.
  7. “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America :: Archive Documents.” The Investigative Project on Terrorism. Accessed October 20, 2023. https://www.investigativeproject.org/document/20-an-explanatory-memorandum-on-the-general.
  8. Husain, Altaf. “MSA National: For 50 Years. ‘Students’ Has Been Its Middle Name.” Huffington Post. January 2, 2013. Updated March 4, 2013. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/msa-national-for-50-years_b_1940707.
  9. “Donate.” MSA. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.msanational.org/donate.
  10. “Muslim Students Association West.” Proteus Fund. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.proteusfund.org/grant/muslimstudentsassociationwest/.
  11. Hawley, Chris. “NYPD monitored Muslim students all over Northeast.” Associated Press. February 18, 2012. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.ap.org/ap-in-the-news/2012/nypd-monitored-muslim-students-all-over-northeast.
  12. Shideler, Kyle. “Mississippi Jihadists Arrested, Tied to Muslim Brotherhood.” Center for Security Policy. August 14, 2015. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://centerforsecuritypolicy.org/mississippi-jihadists-arrested-tied-to-muslim-brotherhood/.
  13. “Violent Islamist Extremism, 2007: Hearings Before the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.” Google Books. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://books.google.com.sa/books?id=OSofNZUOZ5kC&pg=PA604&lpg=PA604&dq=%E2%80%9CAmong+the+social+networks+of+the+local+university+population,+there+appears+to+be+a+growing+trend+of+Salafi-based+radicalization+that+has+permeated+some+Muslim+student+associations&source=bl&ots=aT9qBGoOwn&sig=ACfU3U2y0daBTFWmNu_O1HyYayb6CgA8Mg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj_8eyXqs75AhVlXfEDHd1SAq0Q6AF6BAgCEAM#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9CAmong%20the%20social%20networks%20of%20the%20local%20university%20population%2C%20there%20appears%20to%20be%20a%20growing%20trend%20of%20Salafi-based%20radicalization%20that%20has%20permeated%20some%20Muslim%20student%20associations&f=false.
  14. Apuzzo, Chris Hawley and Matt. “NYPD Infiltration of Colleges Raises Privacy Fears.” NBC New York, October 13, 2011. https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/nypd-muslim-investigation-college-probe-privacy-issues-secret-mission-new-york-city-police/1930685/.
  15. [1] Hawley, Chris. “NYPD monitored Muslim students all over Northeast.” Associated Press. February 18, 2012. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.ap.org/ap-in-the-news/2012/nypd-monitored-muslim-students-all-over-northeast.
  16. “Muslim Student Association.” Investigative Project on Terrorism. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/84.pdf.
  17. McKay, Pat. “U of S Muslim Student Association says university not doing enough to offer accommodations during Ramadan.” CTV News. March 31, 2022. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/u-of-s-muslim-student-association-says-university-not-doing-enough-to-offer-accommodations-during-ramadan-1.5843349.
  18. Lapin, Andrew. “AU Muslim student group withdraws from interfaith seder over Hillel Israel support.” The Times of Israel. April 22, 2022. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.timesofisrael.com/au-muslim-student-group-withdraws-from-interfaith-seder-over-hillel-israel-support/.
  19. “Muslim Students’ Association speaker choice sparks controversy.” CBC. January 18, 2016. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/muslim-students-association-speaker-choice-sparks-controversy-at-u-of-a-1.3408813.
  20. Margolis, Marc. “Muslim student groups around Ivy League protest Trump presidency.” The Daily Pennsylvanian. November 17, 2016. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.thedp.com/article/2016/11/muslimstudentgroupprotests.
  21. Clark, Stephen. “Jewish, Muslim Tensions Rise at UC Irvine After Suspension of Muslim Group.” Fox News. December 23, 2015. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/jewish-muslim-tensions-rise-at-uc-irvine-after-suspension-of-muslim-group.
  22. Ng, Nicole; Yiin, Wesley. “Groups embroiled in controversy over speaker.” Yale News. September 10, 2014. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2014/09/10/groups-embroiled-in-controversy-over-speaker/.
  23. Shibley, Robert. “Terrorism Awareness Project Calls for Defunding of Muslim Student Association Chapters Because of Their Views.” FIRE. August 20, 2008. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.thefire.org/terrorism-awareness-project-calls-for-defunding-of-muslim-student-association-chapters-because-of-their-views/.
  24. Chandna, Marium. “U.S. ignores ‘innocent until proven guilty” for alleged terrorists.” The Tartan. January 19, 2009. Accessed August 17, 2022. http://thetartan.org/2009/1/19/forum/siddiqui.
  25. [1] “Taliban was never against education of girls.” YouTube. January 17, 2013. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7laVcrg0Ts.
  26. “On Iconoclasm (yes, still thinking about it).” Katrin Schulze. June 22, 2009. Accessed August 17, 2022. http://katrinschulze.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-iconoclasm-yes-still-thinking-about.html.
  27. “Muslim Student Association.” Investigative Project on Terrorism. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/84.pdf.
  28. Shideler, Kyle. “Social Justice Warriors Slam America’s Oldest Muslim Brotherhood Group on Twitter.” Town Hall. November 25, 2015. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://townhall.com/columnists/kyleshideler/2015/11/25/social-justice-warriors-slam-americas-oldest-muslim-brotherhood-group-on-twitter-n2085134.
  See an error? Let us know!