Stuyvesant Muslim Students Association Wins First Place at MIST

Stuyvesant MSA wins the Muslim Interscholastic Competition this spring.

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By Tahmid Jamal

The Stuyvesant Muslim Students Association (MSA) participated in the annual Muslim Interscholastic Tournament (MIST) at Townsend Harris High School from February 24 to 26 and placed first for the first time in Stuyvesant history. MIST is an interactive competition with various divisions such as math, chess, vocal ability, debate, and music. Teams from different schools compete within each of the divisions, and competing members can participate in multiple divisions.

In previous years, there was conflict with team scheduling and recruitments for the competition. “This year was special because last year we only had [approximately] 10 people go into MIST together, and I was alone,” junior and Stuyvesant MSA secretary Sadat Ahmed said. “I didn’t know what I was doing, and the other teams had 40 or 50 members on each team, so it was just demoralizing to see that compared to us, who did not even have a team.”

Following the pandemic, Stuyvesant MSA’s culture and its participation in MIST greatly changed with an influx of new members. This year, the team entered the competition with the goal to win. “I think what really changed was that during COVID-19 times, many people weren’t really part of MSA or in the MIST tournament in general, so this year, we brought a lot of people into the tournament, and that’s what really ensured our success,” senior and MSA member Shafiul Haque said. “In turn, we got closer to one another as members of the MSA [and] the three days we spent together at the competition were really helpful to our victory.”

Formerly, there was also a lack of team morale and motivation. Stuyvesant MSA had never placed first in MIST before, and other schools usually ranked higher than Stuyvesant. This year, Stuyvesant MSA was determined to fix this. Because of the collective team pressure and motivation to succeed, morale was high, and members were able to implement newfound strategies gained from practice. “It was a lot of pressure. In the history of New York MIST, we never placed first. Stuy has never placed first because it has always been Bronx [Science], [Brooklyn] Tech, etc. This year, therefore, we practiced a lot, like on the Hudson staircase, for hours,” Ahmed said.

MIST is made up of a variety of different competitions, allowing all participants to compete in their strongest fields. “There are various types of competitions, like [Haque and I] did computer science, [Haque] did math, I did singing and creative writing, etc.,” Ahmed said. “There are writing competitions, performances, short films, basketball, poetry, [and] speaking.”

In addition to facilitating the learning of new skills and development of talents, MIST allowed many participants from MSA to feel the value of community by being surrounded by teenagers who share the same culture and religious background. “It was nice to be surrounded by so many people who reminded me of myself since I got to see so many other Muslim high schoolers,” sophomore and MIST participant Huda Berri said.

While MIST is an Islam-oriented competition, the tournament also includes more secular areas, allowing non-Muslims to participate as well. Muslim students were able to collaborate with non-Muslim students and create a community of diverse competition. “There were also all these different [competitions], like creative writing, art, basketball, Super Smash Bros—there was literally everything you could ever think of. So, MIST is open to not just Muslims, and we actually encourage non-Muslim people to join,” sophomore and MSA member Khadijah Shoaab said.

This intersectionality made MIST not only more inclusive event but also a tool for Stuyvesant’s success. “We had a few non-Muslims, and we actually won first and second in digital art with them,” Berri said.

Despite the challenges that Stuyvesant MSA has faced in the past, the team’s success at this year’s MIST is proof of their hard work, dedication, and strong team spirit. “MIST changed my point of view on Muslim communities in high schools around New York because it really showed how unified we are,” Shoaab said. “At first I didn’t think that many people would even show up, but when I saw how many people came and cared and were so happy about being here, it was really comforting because it felt like I had my own community.”