Chanting could be heard from inside the University Center over to the neighboring street Sunday.
The energy that filled the room was similar to that of a ball game, but it wasn’t a sporting event. It wasn't even fraternity brothers or sorority sisters that caused the noise. These were Muslim students representing their schools as part of the 10th Annual Muslim Student Association Showdown.
Nineteen universities and a total of more than 200 students attended the event hosted by the UTA Muslim Student Association, including UT-Austin, UT-San Antonio, UT-Dallas, The University of North Texas and Texas A&M, among others.
Together, the associations raised $16,442 for Project Sadaqa to help relief efforts for Syrian refugees, said Abdullah Shawky, regional disaster response coordinator for Islamic Relief USA. Project Sadaqa is a collaborative effort for all Muslim Student Associations across Texas to give back and help those in need. This year, the associations chose to raise money to donate to the refugees.
Shawky said he was told the associations raised $10,000, but was surprised to learn the total was higher at the event.
Syria's civil war began in 2011, and now roughly 13.5 million Syrians need humanitarian aid, 4.6 million Syrians are refugees and 6.6 million are displaced within Syria, according to World Vision. World Vision is a nonprofit organization that aims to help people out of severe poverty and aids people displaced through conflict or natural disasters.
The civil war began when pro-democracy protests began in March 2011 in the southern city of Deraa after teenagers painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall and were arrested in tortured. Protestors nationwide demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the BBC. Opposition supporters took up arms and the civil war erupted.
Every dollar raised will go towards giving food, shelter and clothing to refugees, Shawky said.
"Prize money, a check for $3,000 to each group, was given to the association that earned the most funds and donors," said Sehar Memon, UTA Muslim Student Association president and management and information systems senior. "UTA won the title for the most donors, but the total number of donors was not available by press time."
UT-Austin won the prize for raising the most money by raising $5,000. Omar Salim, architecture senior and vice president of UT-Austin’s association, said he was proud to have won.
“The group we have at UT are conscious and aware of what’s going on, not only within the UT community but everywhere,” Salim said. “We try to project the idea that it’s not just helping Muslims, but helping humanity.”
The showdown has an overall winner each year and this year the UT-Dallas association took home the prize. Rimmel Shekha, biology and business administration senior and vice president of the UT-Dallas association, said this is the first time they have won the overall prize.
"We're a solid squad and we come out to fight," Shekha said. "The fact that we won first place shows that we are a well-rounded group."
The showdown is a three-day event with competitions like flag football, basketball, essay writing, poetry, short film, calligraphy and art," said Sehar Memon, UTA Muslim Student Association president and management and information systems senior. Other events focused on Islam, such as Nasheed and Tajweed. Nasheed is an a capella performance and Tajweed is the recitation of the Quran, the holy book of the Muslim faith, Memon said.
“They choose a chapter in the Quran that they let us know beforehand and everyone practices,” Memon said. “Then they recite it privately at the competition and then they judge it based on the mistakes that were made.”
Salim said he made the trip to Arlington to be with his brothers and sisters of Islam, have fun, and bond together with Muslim-American students.
“Everyone is different,” Salim said. “We come from different schools, different backgrounds, and the fact that the religion of Islam can unite us even at this young age is amazing.”