Nour Touti: Founder of MSA

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By Sarah Ali

The founder of East High MSA (Muslim student association) and officer of Unicef, Nour Touti, was born and raised right outside the city of Chicago, in a small town called Potage Park. It was a challenge for her to move to Buffalo and to find the right group of people, but now she has a community, here in East Amherst, of people she feels comfortable with. 

Her middle school years probably had the greatest impact on her life. She started Islamic schools in the third grade, which was hard for her to switch from a public school to an Islamic school. The environments were different, and not only did she have to focus on the basic subjects in school, she had to focus on addition subjects that dealt deeper into Islam. It was easier for her to make Muslim friends when attending an Islamic school, it gave her a sense of community, “going to an Islamic school your surrounded by Muslims 24/7, those Muslims are your friends, you celebrate eid together, you do henna together, you have similar cultures, there’s so much simulations and at the same time so much diversity, so its so easy to get along them”. When asked to describe her experiences during middle school, Nour said “It was amazing being able to be at a place with a sense of serenity and peacefulness”. The lectures she would listen to everyday in Islamic studies class, gave her faith in religion and humanity. According to Nour there was a big difference going to an Islamic school compared to attending Saturday and Sunday classes at a mosque, because she had to juggle that with regular schools. Before going to an Islamic school she mentally juggled her American values with her islamic and cultural values which confused her. 

Although Nour was born in the United States, English wasn’t her first language. Her parents would only speak in Arabic at home, and whenever they did speak in English, on rare occasions, she didn’t quite understand. At the age of three, Nour and her family went back to Algeria for a year, which only had more of an influence on her, given the fact the kids there only spoke Arabic. When coming back to America and going to an American school, she began to understand the language a bit, but It was still a struggle for her to communicate with the teachers and kids. She understood what people were saying to her but had no idea how to respond. By the time she went into Kindergarten, she knew English fluently and started to read and write. It was a grapple at first but it didn’t take long for her to catch up. Going to an American school being surrounded by people who only spoke in English really helped her strengthen her ability to speak English. 

Nour loved her life in Chicago, the people, the school, the city. She grew up surrounded by many different diverse people. It was a big change moving to a different state. Going from a big city to a small town. The population was smaller and much more rural. It was hard for Nour to leave behind the people she grew up with since kindergarten. 

Nour and her family moved to Buffalo around the New Years of 2019, when her father found a better job position for himself. Initially she didn’t like the new change at first due to the lack of diversity, which made stray away from her cultural and religion trying to fit in but later on she grew to like it because she found friends and a community she enjoys being around. She attended Mill for her last couple of months of Middle School. Freshman year, she went to South High. Sophomore year and now Junior year she’s attending here at Williamsville East High School. The summer of 2019, Nour and her family went back to Algeria and it gave her a cultural shock. Being surrounded by her cousins that prayed everyday, buying cultural clothes and strengthening her Arabic changed her completely. She realized that she doesn’t need validation from anyone and doesn’t need to change herself to fit in. By the time she came back to America for her freshman year she had a stronger sense her religion, culture, and self fulfillment. She’s proud that she has a culture and something to lean on.

Nour Touti started the Muslim Student Association club around March of this year, she was inspired by the MSA of the University at Buffalo. She attended a youth group club called Noor seekers at the community mosque on Hyam. She met kids from North High school and talked about the MSA club they had. Nour realized that East should have one too, since the Muslim population has been growing. The next day she tries to figure out how to start one. She brought together a few other Muslim students and proposed her idea about starting this club. Nour did admit that she was a bit afraid of how the non Muslims at East would react or feel. She then remembered the purpose of the club, which is to bring the Muslim community at East together. “ I was actually a bit nervous at first because I imagining myself as a non Muslim, how would they feel about a religious club? But then I was like, you know what, I don’t care if people don’t show up to the meetings, I would like it if they would, if people came to educate themselves. you never know there might be a non Muslim who wants to see what’s it about.” This club can bring the Muslim community at East closer together, “we’ve all seen each other around school and knew of each other, but didn’t know each other”. Nour’s hope for MSA is to benefit the Muslims at East and help them find a comfortable place, because she didn’t have that, especially at South High School, because even with the few Muslims at that school, they were separated and couldn’t see each other. Nour’s excited for the future of MSA.