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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Muslim students at UW create walking companionship system

‘Ummah Walk’ spearheaded by MSA, popular during evening Ramadan prayers
MSA community members walking, photo courtsey of Naisha Bepar

This fall, members of the Muslim Student Association at the University of Wisconsin created ‘Ummah Walk,’ a system through which female members can request a trusted male community member to accompany them if they are walking alone or feel unsafe.

To use Ummah Walk, female MSA members send a message in the Ummah Walk WhatsApp group chat to ask a male member to walk them home. Any female MSA member is welcome to join the group. The Ummah Walk chat is administered by MSA board members who approve or decline requests to join.

According to Vice President of MSA at UW Naisha Bepar, the male Ummah Walk members are highly regarded and trusted members of the Muslim student community. Currently, this includes male MSA board members and board members of Alpha Lambda Mu, the Muslim-Interest fraternity at UW.


Bepar said Ummah Walk has been increasingly utilized during the holy month of Ramadan, which began March 10. Ramadan is a month of communal fasting, prayer and self-reflection for observant UW students and Muslims around the world.

During Ramadan, Muslims perform Taraweeh, a special evening prayer in addition to the five daily prayers — Fajr (dawn), Dhuhr (midday), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (sunset) and Isha (night). Taraweeh is usually performed at the mosque after Isha. Bepar said going to and from the mosque late at night for Taraweeh can be a safety concern for community members.

“During Ramadan, we have night prayers every single night that we obviously want to be able to attend, but it’s a sketchy area right by bars,” Bepar said.

The nearest mosque for UW students is the Islamic Center located at 21 N. Orchard St, which is far from where many students live and close to bars like Lucky’s 1313 Brew Pub and Sconnie Bar.

Ummah Walk helps assuage some of the safety concerns of walking at night. Bepar said even though there are often other girls to walk home from the mosque with, it is comforting to have Ummah Walk as an available option in the case someone is alone.

Ummah Walk was first created mid-October 2023 amid local and national increases in Islamophobic hate and bias incidents.

The Council on Islamic-American relations — the largest Muslim advocacy group in the U.S. — received 1,283 requests for help and reports of bias in the following month and 3,578 in the following three months after Hamas’ attack on Israel Oct. 7. In a statement to CNN, CAIR called it the largest wave of Islamophobic and anti-Arab bias the organization has recorded since Donald Trump called for a Muslim Ban in 2015.

Israel’s subsequent declaration of war in Gaza has killed over 33,300 Palestinians in the past 178 days — surpassing any Arab loss in wars with Israel in the past 40 years, according to the New York Times.

Since October, Bepar said the frequency of hate incidents against the UW Muslim student community, especially toward Muslim girls who wear the hijab, has increased. This includes both physical and verbal assaults on and off the UW campus. MSA has also received hate DMs on Instagram. UW students can report a bias or hate incident here.

While SAFEwalk, a free walking companionship at UW, is available to all students, staff, faculty and UW visitors, Bepar said Ummah Walk is more closely tailored to the needs of the Muslim student community at UW.

“I do think SAFEwalk is a beneficial tool,” Bepar said. “But at the same time, especially right now, we feel safer within our own community. The community is more united than ever.”

Bepar said despite the increase in hate incidents, she has seen her community strengthen. The use of the word “Ummah” — the Arabic word for “nation” used to describe the entire global community of Muslims — is purposeful and emphasizes this community.

Ummah Walk has also helped formalize and normalize male members of the community walking female members home, according to Bepar.

“Being able to publicly ask to be walked home takes the weirdness out of it,” Bepar said. “It makes the girls feel a lot more comfortable to be able to ask for a guy to walk or drive them home.”

Bepar said even if girls are not comfortable saying they need a walk in the Ummah Walk group chat, many feel comfortable asking female board members to text for them.

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