Muslim students ask administration for larger prayer room
The Muslim Student Association is asking for a larger prayer room on campus, saying the current space has trouble meeting students’ needs.
The prayer space in Student Union Room 3516 can only hold four people at a time, said MSA President Ibtissam Gad, a sophomore majoring in biology. Gad said Muslims pray five times a day and a prayer takes about five minutes, meaning that many students who practice on campus have to wait in line in order to fulfill daily worship.
Dean of Students Michele Martinez said while space in the Student Union is tight, there may be options the university can look into for meeting the students’ request.
Gad said there are two afternoon prayers between noon and 3 p.m. that cause many students to be late to class.
“Those are the times we get the most traffic for the prayer room because it’s when most people have their classes, and stop in between them,” Gad said.
The nature of the prayers that take place in the room also makes the tight quarters hard to deal with, Gad said.
“A huge part of the problem is we stand, we kneel and have our foreheads on the floor. It involves the whole body,” she said. “It’s uncomfortable for males and females to be in the same room because of the small space.”
Gad said a larger prayer room in the Student Union would also help commuters because it is a central location on campus.
Martinez said her office supports the MSA and wants to help the organization. Last year, for example, a former custodial closet near the prayer room was converted into a foot-washing station that students use before prayer.
An online petition asking for the larger space has about 100 signatures so far, Gad said.
She stressed that the online petition was not meant to be confrontational toward the administration. Instead, Gad said, the signatures serve as a gauge of how many students use the prayer room and would like to see a larger space.
“We are trying to collect names to show them how many people need the room,” she said. “We are using the petition to get a numerical value.”
Nathan Leroux, an executive board member of Students for Justice in Palestine and sophomore majoring in music education, said the prayer room is valuable.
“The Muslim population on campus is large, and it is not only a symbol of belonging, but as a community it shows we have made a mark,” he said. “It is a place where we can sit quietly and make prayer.”
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