Affiliate Group of the Week #24: Wayne State Secular Student Alliance
September 19, 2013
We have had the pleasure of meeting Hassan over the past years at our Student Leadership Conferences and we are now fortunate to hear a little more about his group at Wayne State University.
First, please introduce yourself. Where you go to school, graduation year, your background. What’s your “atheist/secular conversion story,” if you have one?
My name is Hassan Khalifeh. I’m a business management major at Wayne State University and work at an IP firm. I’m an ex-Muslim atheist, and was raised as a very religious Muslim between Lebanon and Michigan. I read the Qur’an daily, prayed five—sometimes six—times a day, and lead prayers at my school. After I left that school and traveled to other countries, I learned more about others religions, ideas, and started to read more about philosophy and science. I started becoming more secular, and eventually became a deist. I then tried bacon, and became an atheist at first bite.
How did your group get started? What year was it founded? Was there a specific event or incident that motivated you or the founders to create the organization?
I started the SSA at Wayne State in the winter of 2011 when my political science professor at the time talked to me about the separation of church and state in class. I had no idea that others were so opposed to it, and a few of us got together to discuss it some more. That group formed the first members of the SSA.
What is your group’s name? How did you decide on that name?
We chose the Secular Student Alliance as our name because we found that it caught the attention of students. It’s recognizable and inclusive enough that students with different ideals and perspectives and come together under the banner of secularism.
How many members does your group have? What kinds of events do you hold?
Our group’s mailing list is in the hundreds, however attendance depends on the event. Some students attend only social events, some only discussion, and some only talks and debates. Talks and debates, for example can draw up to 100 students, however, we usually get about 10-20 students per discussion meeting.
As an example, could you share one thing you’re most proud of that your group accomplished in the past year?
We’ve hosted a week-long series of events during “Separation of Church and State week” and “Out week”. We held numerous “Ask an Atheist” events, a Flying Spaghetti Monster dinner, Blasphemy Rights Day, Hug and Atheist, Soul auction, Fiction for Fiction, and much more. We’re proud of our soul auction and blasphemy rights day events, which fostered a lot of debate and discussion throughout campus, and received some media attention.
How did you hear about CFI On Campus? How have you worked with CFI On Campus in the past, and how do you hope to work with us in the future?
I heard about CFI after attending a local Cafe’ Inquiry event. After that, I was hooked. To me, CFI represents the wide range of issues that I care about the most and amazingly tries to tackle them in the real world. I’ve been to every CFI Leadership Conference since 2011, volunteered at many events in MI, and hope to host a large debate in collaboration with CFI this semester.
What is your vision for the secular movement?
To me, the secular movement is one that protects the rights and freedoms of everyone. Whether it’s their right to change their religion, question it, or leave it. It’s also one that protects science, wonder, and promotes critical thinking.
About the Author: Cody HashmanCody Hashman is a Campus and Community Organizer at the Center for Inquiry. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, with a degree in Psychology, where he was the co-founder and president of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers.
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