Mustapha El Akkari recently became the first non-Mormon student body president at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Interestingly, El Akkari is a Muslim who credits the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-affiliated school with making him a better Islamic adherent.
In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune the business management student, who is at the school on a basketball scholarship, highlighted the ways in which LDS has assisted his faith.
El Akkari, who was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, will be a senior next fall. During the interview, he shared his experience living with a Christian family in America. Additionally, he discussed the culture shock he encountered upon attending BYU, specifically when it comes to the honor code and other strict regulations:
"It was a big shock for me. I read articles about it, but I thought it would be like a normal college. It was none of that. It was really straight with an honor code and all — no tea or coffee meant no tea or coffee. I had lived through a half-Jewish, half-Christian family but not Mormons. But I adjusted right away. I fit in. I’m a little unique — the only Arabic speaker or Lebanese on campus — but I love Hawaiians. I never knew any Polynesians before. I called my parents and told them there were islands in the Pacific where people live. They never knew it. I decided I was going to learn from the experience and bring my culture to them."
When asked to share how his Islamic faith has been impacted by attending a Mormon university, El Akkari provided some intriguing assessments. In sum, BYU has positively impacted and reinforced his faith.
"Before I came to this school, I was not a practicing Muslim. I had never been to a Muslim school," he explained. "When I came here, I saw all these religious people who were successful and I thought, 'I want to be like them. I want to base my life on principles, you can’t fail this way.'"
The student reiterated his belief that Islam is "right" and said that the experience of attending the school caused him to read Muslim books and educate himself.
"Now I read the Quran, do my five daily prayers and fast during the month of Ramadan. The Mormons kind of woke me up," El Akkari explained. "I haven’t felt any discrimination from them, but their attempts to convert me always will be there. They believe their religion is right. I don’t really blame them."
If he goes back to Lebanon after graduation, he said that he will play basketball, as it is easy and is something that he loves. During the interview, he also made mention of his brother, Mohammad El-Akkari, who The Blaze recently covered for scoring a record-breaking 113 points in a single basketball game.
You can read more of El Akkari's interview in the Tribune.