Alif Laam Meem -- or, for those who prefer fraternities to go by a Greek acronym, Alpha Lambda Mu -- first blipped across the national radar this past spring when they attended Mayor Mike Rawlings' anti-domestic-violence rally outside City Hall. A photo the group posted to Facebook showing members holding a sign reading "Muslims say NO to domestic violence!" went semi-viral as the Internet applauded them for battling the stereotype that Islam is inherently misogynistic.
"We wanted to clarify the misconception that any kind of domestic violence is allowed in our religion," ALM founder Ali Mahmoud told ABC News. "And it may seem apparent through the media that it's allowed, but that's majorly a cultural phenomenon and not an actual teaching of our religion."
The group was brand new at the time, having been founded the previous month. Now that it's a bit better established, it's enjoying a second burst of media attention, this time focused not on any specific issue but on the mere existence of a fraternity whose members foreswear alcohol and pre-marital sex.
On Tuesday, Britain's The Independent ran a profile of America's "first all-Muslim frat.".
"The idea of a Muslim fraternity seemed heretical," says Ali. However, as they worked on the idea they realised that many Muslim men at university felt that they either had to compromise their social life in order to live by the values of Islam, or compromise the values of Islam in order to have a social life. Ali believed a balance was achievable, and that was the path the establishment of Alpha Lambda Mu was trying to pave.
They created the fraternity, based on the principles of Islam - mercy, compassion, justice, integrity, honesty, unity, love, and sincerity - in order to prove that a modern Muslim college student could live as a dignified, respectable man and still have an organic college experience. They hope that in their fraternity, their members - 'young, self-actualised Muslim men' - will be servants to their families and every aspect of their greater community.
In the piece, and in an article on Huffington Post that followed it, Mahmoud takes pains to stress the group's essential Americanness.
"I personally grew up in Plano, Texas," he tells the Independent. "I went to public school, I played Xbox Live all the time with my friends who weren't Muslim, and I regrettably ate too much fast food. I'm a proud American Muslim"
HuffPo offers proof of that, writing that Mahmoud's "slight Texas accent is a testament to his American upbringing."
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Better proof is probably offered by their irreverent sense of humor, as showcased by their "Kufi Krew." See for yourself:
ALM has gotten a bit of pushback, most prominently by way of a widely shared Tumblr post from a student at Cornell who wondered "why any religious organization would strive to be modeled after a gendered institution with roots in white supremacy and elitism," but the response has been positive. At UTD, they have been welcomed.
Right now, the frat is preparing for UTD's rush week, which starts Monday. They expect to welcome 30 to 40 new members.