A Frat Of Their Own: Muslims Create A New Space On Campus

The brothers of Alpha Lambda Mu come from a variety of backgrounds and religious upbringings. "We meet at this middle ground we call brotherhood," says ALM founder Ali Mahmoud. i i

The brothers of Alpha Lambda Mu come from a variety of backgrounds and religious upbringings. "We meet at this middle ground we call brotherhood," says ALM founder Ali Mahmoud. Dylan Hollingsworth hide caption

itoggle caption Dylan Hollingsworth
The brothers of Alpha Lambda Mu come from a variety of backgrounds and religious upbringings. "We meet at this middle ground we call brotherhood," says ALM founder Ali Mahmoud.

The brothers of Alpha Lambda Mu come from a variety of backgrounds and religious upbringings. "We meet at this middle ground we call brotherhood," says ALM founder Ali Mahmoud.

Dylan Hollingsworth

Toga parties and keg stands have become stereotypes of college fraternities. But Ali Mahmoud had something else in mind when he founded Alpha Lambda Mu, the first social Muslim fraternity in the country.

A member of Alpha Lambda Mu addresses his brothers during a fraternity meeting at the Islamic Association-Collin County masjid in Plano, Texas. i i

A member of Alpha Lambda Mu addresses his brothers during a fraternity meeting at the Islamic Association-Collin County masjid in Plano, Texas. Dylan Hollingsworth hide caption

itoggle caption Dylan Hollingsworth
A member of Alpha Lambda Mu addresses his brothers during a fraternity meeting at the Islamic Association-Collin County masjid in Plano, Texas.

A member of Alpha Lambda Mu addresses his brothers during a fraternity meeting at the Islamic Association-Collin County masjid in Plano, Texas.

Dylan Hollingsworth

"I realized that there was this void for Muslims on campus," says Mahmoud, a junior at the University of Texas at Dallas.

"A lot of us come from immigrant families and so, growing up in America, a lot of us have to live a double life ... where we try to please our family, in terms of our Islamic upbringing, and then we go to school ... and we're just trying to fit in. We're just trying to be cool."

So in 2013, Mahmoud founded the first chapter of Alpha Lambda Mu — named for three letters of significance in the Quran: Alif Laam Meem. The fraternity now has two additional chapters at Cornell University and the University of California, San Diego, and Mahmoud hopes to expand to more universities in the coming year.

Mahmoud tells NPR's Arun Rath that he didn't intend to start a movement; he just wanted to provide Muslim American men with a place to have fun and be themselves.


Interview Highlights

On the image of the alcohol-obsessed fraternity

For the most part, because there is that stereotype, many Muslims who ... observe their religion kind of turn off the fraternity scene. They're not into the drinking, they're not into the hookup culture. And so providing this alternative, it allows us to engage in what we want to and embrace what we want to. ...

We're pretty crazy on our own. I'd be afraid if you tried to hang around us if we were intoxicated.

In their Kufi Krew videos, the brothers of Alpha Lambda Mu perform skits poking fun at Muslim stereotypes.

On whether having a Muslim frat is isolating

I don't really see how this could be [keeping] us from assimilating into American culture because we have nothing to assimilate to. We are American. We are American Muslims. Those two don't contradict each other at all. And so we're not hiding away ourselves, we're just living with people who have the same beliefs that we do.

On bridging different beliefs within the organization

We have this group of guys who are on both sides of the spectrum and everywhere in between of what it means to be a "good Muslim." And it forces the people who are less practicing, or less externally practicing of their religion — it kind of puts them in an environment more conducive to reaching the goals that they want to.

And then it takes the kids who have been fostered their entire life and been isolated from "lesser Muslims" and it puts them in a position where they have to tolerate them and they have to understand them. So really, everybody's benefiting and we meet at this middle ground we call brotherhood.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.