Last week, Trinity celebrated diversity with a week-long program of events that exposed students to different cultures, identities and backgrounds. At the end of the week, on Friday April 13, the Muslim Student Association capped off the celebrations with their second annual Henna Night.
Henna Night was billed as “a showcase of Islamic culture,” which it delivered on by featuring a variety of acts, each representing different facets of Islam. The evening included belly dancing, a short skit, traditional music, Quran chanting, stand-up comedy and a fashion show, alongside delicious ethnic food and, of course, henna.
The event was intended not only to entertain, but also to inform. The opening presentation by Sajida Jalalzai, assistant professor of religion, set the tone of the evening by explaining the cultural and historical significance of henna as an art and a tradition.
Later in the program, there was also a comical skit addressing the prevalence of Islamophobia on social media. The organizer and author of this skit, first-year Kayla Padilla, explained that the process was somewhat unconventional because she was writing about Islamophobia even though she’s not Muslim.
“I kind of went out of my comfort zone to make it funny, but I didn’t really know how to make it funny … but after I sent it to [Muslim friends and co-actors in the play] they didn’t really have any objections, so we all just kind of [were able to] laugh at it,” Padilla said.
Nabeel Gaber, co-president of the Muslim Student Association and an actor in the play, praised Padilla for her writing and explained that the skit was intended to address everyday issues that might be encountered by Muslim students at Trinity.
“It’s not meant to be preachy, but it does have a good message to it,” Gaber said.
That message, one of understanding and inclusion, was the overarching theme of the evening. Many audience members felt that they learned something from the event.
First-year Allison Carr expressed her interest in the fashion show, the final act of the evening.
“I actually was really interested to learn about the hijab, and how you don’t actually have to wear that, but there’s ways that you can wear it — all the different styles — I thought that was really cool,” Carr said.
Carr added that although her decision to attend Henna Night was spur-of-the-moment, she’s glad she came.
“It was super entertaining and I feel like I learned a lot,” Carr said.
That’s exactly the kind of reaction that the other co-president, Danyal Tahseen, was aiming for.
“I liked how the entertainment was really intertwined with the learning, and I think people took a lot from it, both educationally and entertainment-wise … Henna Night is so unique in that aspect. There are so many programs at Trinity already, but Henna Night really promotes that aspect of making sure people learn something about different cultures; cultures other than their own,” Tahseen said.
Tahseen’s personal favorite act was a duo of cultural songs performed live by sophomore Aamu Karla, and a complementary background video synthesizing various aspects of Muslim culture.
“[The song] has so much emotional value, and just in light of everything that’s going on in the world, I think that song uplifts us and reminds us that it’s so important to just be human and celebrate our differences, celebrate each other, and I think that was a great take-home message that I’m going to carry with me,” Tahseen said.
Looking ahead to next year’s Henna Night, Tahseen is excited to expand the program and get more of the Trinity community involved.
“I’d love to get more interest from different groups who weren’t really sure exactly what Henna Night is, but now that we’ve set an example, it would be really nice and heartwarming to see people come forward, volunteer to be part of the show and want to be part of this exciting message,” Tahseen said.
Tahseen invited minority groups throughout the San Antonio community, such as Muslim student groups from University of the Incarnate Word and the University of Texas at San Antonio, to attend Henna Night.
“I’m glad to have been able to expand Trinity’s community through the show … I hope to keep doing that as I move forward towards the end of my undergraduate career,” Tahseen said.
For now, though, Tahseen gets to enjoy the evening’s success.
“I’m so amazed and pleasantly surprised by how well it went. I’m so pleased to see the turnout, and it’s better than anything I could’ve ever envisioned,” Tahseen said.
Interested in joining the Muslim Student Association? Contact Danyal Tahseen at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nabeel Gaber at email@example.com.