As the Ohio State Buckeyes pummeled the Northwestern Wildcats on Ryan Field last November, senior Amir Siddiqui and his friends slipped below the bleachers, removed their shoes and knelt on pieces of poster board to pray.

As the sea of purple cheered and jeered above, Siddiqui tuned out the world around him to perform salaat, the Islamic ritual prayer that faithful Muslims recite five times daily.

Siddiqui will do the same in Welsh-Ryan Arena next week when the Buckeyes basketball team goes up against the Wildcats. But rather than pray amid raucous crowds, some Muslim students are pressing Northwestern’s athletic department to set aside a secluded space for the ritual, or grant them permission to come and go from the arena before the buzzer. . .

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council for American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, said the beauty of salaat is that it can be performed just about anywhere. Prayer space is often set aside in airports and hospitals, he said.

“If you don’t have that option, you just close your eyes and concentrate,” he said.

Rehab understands the discomfort about praying among crowds, however. He recalled that a group of Muslim fans were detained at a New York Giants game in September 2005 after they left the stands to pray. Space was set aside at the stadium after the incident.

Rehab said the quest for prayer space could be an opportunity to close the knowledge gap about Islam and teach more Americans about the central role of prayer in the Muslim faith.


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