Introducing a Rare Kind of Rush

Afreen Nadeem and Komal Malik attend a meeting about Gamma Gamma Chi, a sorority started by an Alexandria woman and her daughter.
Afreen Nadeem and Komal Malik attend a meeting about Gamma Gamma Chi, a sorority started by an Alexandria woman and her daughter. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 8, 2006

Greek letters gleamed from a satin banner hanging at the front of the room, sequins flashed on little purses, and one woman holding a gold brochure blushed crimson, trying to explain why she liked the idea of this new group. Another widened dark eyes lined with kohl, watching everyone closely.

Tasmim Anwar smiled and said, with a little gush, "I am such a sorority type of girl."

And -- long before the first Gamma Gamma Chi rush in Maryland was over -- a student had politely interrupted to ask if they could break for maghrib , a sunset prayer. The women, draped in dark scarves, knelt to praise Allah in a hallway at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Greek life. These women came curious about a new kind of sorority, one that could change stereotypes of Muslim women, one based on Islamic beliefs: no drinking, no socializing with men.

Like Anwar, a freshman at Johns Hopkins University, most of the students had never seriously considered going Greek. They've heard the stereotypes, such as keg parties with fraternity guys and, well, that's plenty right there.

So they came to this new kind of rush, some covered head to toe in dark abayas , some with scarves pinned carefully around their heads and strappy four-inch heels, some with hair loose and jeans tight. Like so many Americans, most of these women don't fit into any easy cultural niche; they've been blending and balancing all their lives.

And some wondered aloud whether this most American of college traditions might be too tricky to pull off.

"I'm curious to see how that will be, that balance," Anwar said.

Greek life has changed dramatically from the days when wealthy, young white men drank gin and tonics on the verandas of fraternity houses. As the mix of students at colleges gets ever more varied, so do their campus groups.

At schools across the country, there are Hispanic, Jewish, Indian and lesbian sororities -- and multicultural ones, sometimes formed in reaction to the others.

"There are a lot of ways to be Greek," said Ron Binder, president of the Association of Fraternity Advisors, who said he's seen an explosion of culturally based groups in recent years and expects that growth to continue.

There isn't, apparently, any other Islamic sorority or fraternity in the United States.

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