Citing a lack of space, Northwestern University athletic officials informed students last week that they would not be able to set aside a secluded area for Muslim students to pray during athletic events.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to meet your primary request to have designated prayer space at Ryan Field or Welsh-Ryan Arena,” John Mack, external media affairs for Northwestern athletics, wrote in a letter. “There just aren’t any spaces that are sufficient to meet your needs of a clean, quiet, enclosed space.”

Mack said students are allowed to pray during games and can “feel free to use whatever available space they can find,” as long as it does not disrupt traffic flow. Students can bring prayer mats to the stadiums and will be allowed to use the coat check to check their mats if there is one available.

Representatives of the Muslim-cultural Student Association said that although the university’s decision was not ideal, they were at least glad to know they would be allowed to pray during games.

“In the past, particularly during football games, we felt a little uncomfortable praying,” Amir Siddiqui said. “Knowing that we are allowed to pray in the stadiums and being aware of some recommended areas will enable students to feel more comfortable praying at basketball and football games.”

Games often coincide with prayer times for salaat, a ritual prayer that faithful Muslims perform five times a day. After huddling under the bleachers and praying on pieces of cardboard during several home football games, students from the Muslim association last year requested a quiet, private space to pray at the basketball and football facilities.

University athletic officials said they are sympathetic to the students’ religious requests, adding that event staff will be notified that students may be praying at games and staff should allow them to do so in peace.


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