A group of Muslim and Christian students have been fostering a greater sense of community here at Penn State with free pizza since October 2015. On the first Friday of every month around 1:15 p.m., these students set up a table in between Forum and the Palmer Museum of Art and hand out boxes of free pizza to hungry students walking between classes.
Inspired by a lecture from Boston Imam Suhaib Webb and his “Free Hugs Friday” campaign, organizer Zakariya Khayat wanted to find out what the Penn State community needed and how he could benefit their lives. “I used that as inspiration and I hypothesized that the only thing college students would want more than hugs would be pizza,” Khayat said. “I bounced the idea off a few brothers and then led a fundraiser to buy the pizza.”
Last December, Christian organizations the 3rd Way Collective, the Lutheran Student Ministry, Westminster Presbyterian Fellowship, and the Wesley Foundation, reached out to Khayat to join his cause.
“I would like to make it explicitly clear that even though I ‘organized’ this initiative, the success of it is because of all the volunteers and great people that are willing to sacrifice some of their time,” Khayat said. “People help out in so many ways by donating money, handing out the pizza, delivering the pizza, taking photos and videos to spread awareness on social media, and just being there for support.”
Within ten minutes of setting up their table with pizza last week, all of the pizza was gone. The group then stood behind a banner reading “Stronger Together.” Khayat stresses the recent political climate wasn’t the reason for handing out pizza, but people have come up to them, thanked them for their efforts, and they’ve even had great conversations with supporters of their cause.
The most important thing Khayat wants his fellow Penn Staters to realize is there’s no race associated with Islam. Most Muslims are actually from Indonesia. “You can be white, black, or Hispanic,” Khayat said. “[Muslims] can be anybody and that’s the most important thing. The person next to you could be a non-Arab, but that doesn’t mean they’re not Muslim.”