If you think Greek life is all hazing and hangovers, this Muslim sorority wants to prove you wrong.
Image via Facebook/Mu Delta Alpha, used with permission.

Greek life might be an old tradition in college campuses across the country, but a new dawn is emerging for one sorority in Texas.

Mu Delta Alpha is perhaps the only active Muslim sorority in the United States and the first to be established in Texas. It was founded in 2016 at the University of Texas at Dallas by Samira Maddox. Within a year, it opened a beta chapter at the University of Texas at Austin, and it has seen tremendous interest and growth since then.

Another Muslim sorority, Gamma Gamma Chi, had started to organize in 2005 in Virginia and Georgia, but the creation now of Mu Delta Alpha seems to have taken a quick hold. The beta chapter, which has a purpose of empowering women through professional development, received more than 100 pledges and inducted 10 new members in 2017.


This is a huge deal. Why? Well, it comes down to one thing: stereotypes.

Joining a sorority or fraternity has often been considered to be a rite of passage for certain kinds of college students. For decades, Greek life has been associated with secret societies, excessive drinking, wild party nights, and other unsavory behaviors.

But because practicing Muslims do not consume alcohol and are discouraged from premarital sexual relationships (even kissing), a sorority rooted in Islamic identity provides an opportunity for students to redefine what it means to be an American Muslim in a sorority.

Nisa Sheikh, the beta chapter’s financial officer in 2018, told The Daily Texan that Mu Delta Alpha is all about normalizing their identities as Muslim women into the college scene.

"The narrative right now is that Muslim women are oppressed and can’t pursue careers," Sheikh said. "When you have a professional Muslim sorority come up, it breaks that stereotype, and people have to reconsider what they believe."

One way the sorority is changing the narrative around Muslim women is through simple education and tweeting. The UT-Dallas chapter has often tweeted about powerful and remarkable women in western pop culture like model Halima Aden and Islamic history like Fatima al-Fihri. Fihri founded The University of Al Quaraouiyine, the first and oldest operating university in the world, in Morocco.

The sorority has certainly gotten a lot of media attention, including many local news affiliates, all of which its members consider as progress in their goal of getting the public to change their perception about Muslim women.

Mu Delta Alpha is not the only Muslim greek life organization in the country.

Alpha Lambda Mu, named after the first three Arabic letters — Alif Lam Meem — mentioned in 92 chapters of the Quran, was the first national Muslim fraternity.

It was founded at UT-Dallas in 2013, and since then, three more Alpha Lambda Mu chapters have been established across the country at the University of California at San Diego, Cornell University, and the University of Toledo.

One year ago today ALM and thousands of men in the Dallas Fort worth area came together to stand against domestic...

Posted by Alif Laam Meem - Alpha Lambda Mu Fraternity on Sunday, March 23, 2014

Like Mu Delta Alpha, the fraternity has gained wide coverage for its founding and its volunteer work in charitable causes like aiding refugee families and supporting survivors of domestic violence. In addition to features from The New York Times and HuffPost, Alpha Lambda Mu has been the subject of a documentary, "Brotherhood: America’s Favorite Muslim Fraternity."

Mu Delta Alpha and Alpha Lambda Mu aren’t only redefining the identities of young Muslim Americans. They also encourage each of us to examine how we perceive students involved in Greek life.

From "Legally Blonde" to "The House Bunny," sorority women are often depicted as dim-witted, boy-crazed Barbie dolls. In reality, women in sororities are some of the hardest-working and successful women in their fields. And while there have been innumerable scandals, there are men who join fraternities for the purpose of brotherhood and community service as well.

Mu Delta Alpha and Alpha Lambda Mu reminds us all of this. Moreover, they’re evoking an inspiring reminder that it is OK — even great — to be whoever we want to be. We shouldn’t let stereotypes, regardless of what background we come from, limit us from our fullest potential. We have the power to choose our own identity and future.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."