This piece is written by Zuhaira Islam, a BA History & Politics student at St Peter’s College. Zuhaira was one of the first interns on the Faculty’s Community History initiative, working on the collaborative project, ‘The History of Muslims in Oxford’ together with our community partner, Everyday Muslim. Zuhaira is the incumbent President of Oxford University’s student Islamic Society.
The Oxford University Islamic Society (OUISoc) has a rich and diverse history. Since the mid-twentieth century, it has served tirelessly in catering to Muslim students of a range of rich and diverse backgrounds. Bringing them a place to practise their faith, like-minded companions and a sense of belonging in the oft-alien environment that is university, the society has long since been a thriving and welcoming community. As we embark upon its 64th year of existence (and 40th year of official recognition), I thought it opportune to reflect upon some key moments in its timeline and to recognise the lasting and positive impact it has had. In this article I will explain how, as an intern researching Muslims in Oxford alongside the History Faculty, my interest focused on the OUISoc. I will also go on to showcase some of my findings and give a brief glimpse into the content of the Society Archives, preserved in the Weston Library.
Oxford’s local Muslim community is a melting pot of individuals originating from a plethora of different cultures, involved in all aspects of society. In starting the internship, my focus quickly turned to the academic community: scholars and students. This was an area that I myself could entirely relate to. To look back with fondness upon forgotten memories, to commemorate a society which through the everyday rush and fervour of University life has cemented itself at the heart of many students’ experiences, became the motivation behind this research. Indeed, celebration is one of the true purposes of History - a fact that became clear to me over the last few months’ work.
The material in the OUISoc Archives is extensive. Many visits were paid to get a sufficient grasp of the weight of the information they held. This article will illustrate the importance of some of these resources: taking a chronological glance through the records to offer a whistle stop tour through its defining moments.