NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Halallywood Bedazzles the Ballroom

Colin Daugherty
Guest Speaker Ibrahim Jaaber addresses Halallywood attendees.

NJIT’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) held its largest annual event, Halallywood, welcoming over 400 people to participate in a gameshow, watch a movie starring members of the MSA, and enjoy a variety of delicious treats on the first of this month. 

The event took place from 5–9:30 p.m. in Ballrooms A and B of the NJIT Campus Center. Shortly after the event kicked off, the talent show was introduced, with several students melodically reciting verses from the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, and singing religious hymns called ‘nasheeds’ in Arabic.  

The next segment of Halallywood consisted of a gameshow, featuring a Jeopardy!-style contest with Islamic trivia questions. Incorrect answers led to a variety of silly consequences, with one participant eating a lemon and another receiving a faceful of whipping cream, much to the delight of the audience. 

At 7 p.m., Ibrahim Jaaber, the guest speaker of the event, was invited to the stage. Jaaber, a motivational speaker and former professional basketball player, recited several of his poems, including “Touch of Gold” and “Virtuous Verses” in an engaging display that had the audience enraptured from start to finish. In another thought-provoking and heartfelt poem called “Brainwash Complete,” Jaaber urged listeners to look beyond Western stereotypes of Islam and develop an understanding of the struggles that Muslims all across the world face as a result of these harmful depictions. 

Muaaz Abdelmenam, fourth-year mechanical engineering major and the Brother’s vice president of the MSA reflected on how this event was a great opportunity for the university’s student body to meet the MSA: “I think that Halallywood is one of the better events for inviting people to learn about Islam. People can come and see that Islam isn’t the strict religion that people make it out to be. We can still have fun while we abide by our own values and guidelines. And it’s a way for people to see how Muslims really are.” 

“Making an event that’s general enough for everyone to relate is also important. When you hear ‘Halallywood,’ what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Hollywood. It’s a fun and creative way to show the population here at NJIT, especially the student body, that ‘Hey, listen, we have so much in common. We just don’t know it.’” commented Marwan Baroud, fourth-year computer science student and the president of the MSA. “So I guess that’s what attracts so many people to the event as well. And, of course, we have free food.” 

Interestingly enough, this event isn’t new on campus. “Halallywood has been going on for a long, long time. The first one I went to [at NJIT] was probably when I was in middle school, and it’s always an entertaining night with an interesting theme and a funny movie that’s really enjoyable for everyone,” said Yasmeen Abbassi, third-year interior design major and the Sister’s vice president of the MSA. 

This is the first year, however, that Halallywood has been conducted on such a large scale. “More than 400 people showed up to the event. And next year, we’re expecting over 550 people,” said Baroud. “This year, I think we hosted the biggest Halallywood so far. Usually, we’re only able to get one coffee cart or just the gameshow, but this time we kind of went all out so everyone could experience all of these things.” 

“Seeing Halallywood this year, it really just dawned on me how much it has changed over the years and how far we’ve come. In the past, it was usually just the volunteers passing out popcorn and making balloons and now we’re having real vendors and real businesses come and support us,” Abbassi added. 

At 7:30 p.m., attendees were given time to interact with these vendors, including those offering free drinks such as iced coffee, tea, and mango lassi — a South Asian yogurt-based smoothie. Other vendors were selling luxurious Arabian fragrances, traditional robes called abayas, and artistically designed calligraphic works made by woodburning. The room was filled with attendees laughing with their friends, taking pictures in front of the ornate flower backdrops, getting henna tattoos, and eating popcorn. 

The final and perhaps most awaited segment of the event was the movie produced by the MSA, titled “Halallywood: The Nightmare Before Eid.” While eating dinner, the audience was treated to a comical and creative story about Ramadan — the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and a holy time of fasting and prayer for Muslims — and Eid-al-Fitr — the celebration that follows Ramadan. Featuring highly entertaining characters like Sheikh Ramadan, Sheikh Eid, and the “Oogie Boogie Man,” the movie exceeded its high expectations. 

An event like Halallywood is the result of a substantial amount of hard work and collaboration on the part of both the MSA and the volunteers who pitched in to help prepare for the event by painting the massive “Halallywood” banner, acting in the movie, and helping make the decorations. But, despite the effort and time that goes into prepping for an event like this, these individuals also found the work to be quite rewarding. 

“My favorite part of Halallywood — honestly, it’s probably not a popular answer, but it would be the prep of it all. Even though it’s very, very exhausting, and time-consuming, just having that time to really bond with people you didn’t even know you were going to become such good friends was so great. We were putting flyers all around and shooting scenes for the movie together, and it was genuinely such an amazing experience to have,” said Leann Qudah, second-year biology major and MSA marketing director. 

“The planning beforehand, the month of us just coming to campus and planning and working on the movie, the mural, the decorations — that’s when the community really comes together. And I know a lot of people, even people who are currently on our board, who were introduced to the MSA just by volunteering for previous Halallywoods,” said Abbassi. 

“I would say when it comes to the theme of the event and the movie, we obviously reach out to a lot of volunteers and the general student body itself. So a big reason that Halallywood is what it is throughout the years is because of the volunteers, so shoutout to them,” Abdelmenam commented.  

The attendees also expressed their enthusiasm for the event. “I think it was an amazing event. It’s a good way for everybody to connect with other Muslims and it’s very interactive. My favorite part was the movie, and the whole process of how we all got together to create it was great,” said Maryam Gerdazi, first-year biology major. 

Qudah also reflected on her experience, remarking, “I loved the idea of Halallywood, of having this major event that’s not just for NJIT MSA students, but it’s also for their families and other MSAs and other colleges to come and just meet people and enjoy this beautiful event — it felt like a warm hug around.” 

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