Recognizing and Celebrating Muslim Heritage Month Year-Round and Increasing Cultural Appreciation

Rowan University DEI Muslim Heritage Month 2024 Graphic

Image Alternative Text: Depicted are a crescent moon and star with illustrated flower patterns in shades of brown. The crescent moon is symbolic of progress; and the star, light. Corresponding flower stems are depicted in the top right corner and bottom left corner of the graphic, along with cloud-like illustrations in faded shades of purple and red at the top left and right corners, and bottom left corner.

The text at the center of the graphic reads, "Celebrating Muslim Heritage Month Year-Round;" "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow;" and "Thank you to the Muslim community for helping to shape Rowan University and the world;" along with the website link to "" The Rowan University Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) logo is positioned in the bottom right corner of the graphic.

Click here to download the graphic.


*Note: It is difficult to confirm the precise origins of the crescent moon and star symbols. It is generally understood that they were adopted by the Ottoman Empire, now known as the Republic of Türkiye. Tunisia was the first country to feature the crescent moon and star on its national flag, in 1831; in 1844, the Ottoman Empire flag featured similar symbols.

The crescent moon and star symbols have since been included as part of national flags in numerous countries, including Azerbaijan, Malaysia, and Mauritania. Other countries and territories (Singapore, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Union of the Comoros, Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands) have adapted versions to be a crescent moon and several stars. It is also important to note that not all individuals who identify as Muslim use the symbols.


This article was written by Patricia Fortunato ( as part of the Rowan University Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team, with gratitude to the entire team for inclusion, compassion, understanding, and meaningful collaboration every day.


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Last year, on April 29, 2023, Governor Phil Murphy signed the joint resolution SJR105/AJR194,1 thereby recognizing and declaring the month of January 2024 and onward as Muslim Heritage Month in New Jersey. This designation formalized Governor Murphy's and the New Jersey State Legislature's dedication to recognizing and supporting the state's diverse religions and cultural traditions.

We commend all advocates and public servants who worked to enact this pivotal legislation for Muslim communities in New Jersey. With nearly 300,000 individuals who identify as Muslim residing in the state,1 comprising three percent of the overall statewide population2 and the highest percentage of Muslim residents in the United States,3 focused efforts on increased cultural appreciation are critical to ensuring widespread understanding and inclusion.

At Rowan University, we expound upon Muslim Heritage Month as a year-round commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and culturally sustaining initiatives for all university community members who identify as Muslim. The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) commits to promoting increased cultural appreciation, fostering increased inclusion, and celebrating the Muslim community.

At a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric remains prevalent in the world and our loved ones/families, friends, and members of the university community who identify as Muslim are affected, we recognize and support the urgent need for universal cultural respect and increased understanding of the complexities and nuances of religion and spirituality. We strive to better listen to, center, and support all individuals with minoritized identities, and amplify their immeasurable contributions that have helped shape Rowan University and the world.

We will strive to continue advancing inclusion, compassion, and understanding;4 raising awareness and increasing understanding of the meaningful histories and cultures of Muslim communities; and promoting and fostering peace among all cultural identities.


The Office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution (SJICR) developed a resources and support guide for the Rowan community. Please refer to this guide for information regarding cultural and identity-based organizations; interfaith and spiritual support; mental health services for students and employees; and other resources, both Rowan-based and external options. Learn more here.


Terms and Guidance for Continued Learning

  • Cultural Appropriation: Cultural appropriation is taking and benefiting from the expression, ideas, artifacts, etc. of another culture without permission, often done by the dominant culture. This is not a cultural exchange, which requires mutual consent and respect.
  • Immigrant: An immigrant is an individual who moves to another country, usually for permanent residence. They may or may not be citizens. The terms "foreigner," "illegal immigrant," and "alien" are offensive and should not be used as synonyms.
  • Institutional Racism: Institutional racism refers to the ways in which structures, systems, policies, and procedures of institutions are founded upon and then promote, reproduce, and perpetuate advantages for the dominant group and the oppression of disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.
  • International: This is the appropriate term to use for students who obtain a non-immigrant visa, such as a student visa or an exchange visitor visa.
  • Intersectionality: Intersectionality is a theoretical concept describing the interconnection of oppressive institutions and identities. The term was developed in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, civil rights advocate and scholar of critical race theory.5
  • Islamophobia: Islamophobia is prejudice and hatred targeted at individuals who identify as Muslim, and more generally those perceived as Arab.
  • Muslim: An individual who identifies as Muslim identifies with the religion of Islam.
  • Muslim World: There are an estimated 1.9 billion individuals who identify as Muslim in the world, per projections via the Pew Research Center.6 Indonesia is home to the world's largest Muslim population, with an estimated 87% of the country identifying as Muslim.7
  • Racism: Racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed toward someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior. Racism involves one group having the power to carry out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of society, and by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and practices.
  • Refugee: A refugee is a person forced to flee their country due to persecution and/or violence. The term "migrant" may be offensive in some contexts.
  • Xenophobia: Xenophobia is a fear or hatred of foreign-born individuals.


Resources for Continued Learning

Educational Websites:

  • New Jersey Muslim Heritage Month Coalition (NJMHM): The NJMHM seeks to engage, collaborate, and build respect, striving towards a future of recognition, celebration, and integration of Muslim communities in the state. Learn more here.
  • American Muslims: A History Revealed: "American Muslims" is a documentary film series that covers the history of Muslim individuals in the United States—from migration to diverse communities across the U.S. in present-day. The first of the six films is set to be released next month via Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Digital Series (learn more here). The project website offers an illustrative timeline of events, covering 500 years of history centering on the stories of American Muslim individuals (learn more here).


Curricula and Toolkits:

  • New Jersey Islamic Networks Group (NJ ING): The NJ ING seeks to promote religious tolerance and foster understanding of Islam and other religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism, via trainings and interfaith panel discussions to middle and high schools, colleges/universities, faith-based organizations, and public libraries. Learn more here.
  • Muslim American Heritage Celebration, part of the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA): The Muslim American Heritage Celebration offers curricula focused on an introduction to diverse Muslim experiences in the United States. Learn more here.
  • Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) Educators Toolkit: The ISPU offers evidence-based resources to support all educators in fostering safe learning environments for all students, with focus on those who identify as Muslim. Learn more here.


Literature and Articles:

  • Alsaidi, S., Velez, B. L., Smith, L., Jacob, A., & Salem, N. (2021). "Arab, Brown, and Other:" Voices of Muslim Arab American Women on Identity, Discrimination, and Well-Being. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.


Rowan University Community of Support for Students

Current and interested students who identify as Muslim at Rowan University are invited to join the following student-run groups:


Additional student groups at Rowan University that may be of interest include:

Ramadan Halaqa Series 2024 at Rowan University

  • Ramadan Halaqa Series Part One: Join the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Rowan University on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, from 8pm to 10:45pm in Discovery Hall, Room 201, for the first part in the Ramadan Halaqa Series to prepare for the holiest month of the year on the Islamic calendar. Enjoy a complimentary dinner with the MSA. Please RSVP to the event here.
  • Part Two takes place on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, from 8pm to 10:45pm in Discovery Hall, Room 409. Complimentary dinner with the MSA will be provided. Please RSVP here.
  • Part Three takes place on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, from 8pm to 10:45pm in Business Hall, Room 104. Complimentary dinner with the MSA will further be provided. Please RSVP here.



  1. Muslim Heritage Month, P.L.2023, JR-6, Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey. (2023).
  2. Adults in New Jersey. Religious Landscape Study. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from on February 13, 2024.
  3. Muslims by State. Religious Landscape Study. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from on February 13, 2024.
  4. McPherson–Myers, P., & Koett, K. S. (2023). A Time for Grieving Together. Rowan Today. Rowan University. Retrieved from on February 13, 2024.
  5. Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum: Volume 1989: Issue 1, Article 8. Retrieved from on March 6, 2024.
  6. Lugo, L., Cooperman, A., O'Connell, E., & Stencel, S. (2011). The Future of the Global Muslim Population. Pew Research Center, USA, 1–209. Retrieved from on February 13, 2024.
  7. Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF). (2021). 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom: Indonesia. United States Department of State. Retrieved from on February 13, 2024.