NC: MUSLIMS SEEK PRAYER SPACE
Though many Duke students look to the stately grandeur of the Duke Chapel or the sleek design of the Freeman Center for Jewish Life as their designated places of worship, the space allotted to the University’s Muslim population is far less visible and a little more subterranean.
Tucked away in the basement of the Bryan Center, Room 0045-labeled the “Muslim Students Association Prayer Room”-is the only stable place of gathering for Muslims on campus.
Equipped with a few prayer rugs, sparsely decorated with framed verses of the Quran on the wall and plagued by a recent ant infestation, the office-sized space is visited throughout the day by Muslim students looking to pray and socialize.
In some ways, the prayer room is similar to the presence of the Muslim population on campus in general-a little more under the radar than other religions and, in the view of many Muslim students, in need of room to grow.
Unlike other religious denominations that have a network of faculty and staff support, the center of Islamic religious life on campus revolves around the activities of the Muslim Students Association, said senior Sayed Zaman, president of the organization.
He said the need for more space is currently one of the group’s biggest concerns.
“[The prayer room] is not an ideal location,” said Youshaa Patel, a first-year graduate student in religion and a member of MSA. “We kind of feel like we’re an ad hoc… an appendage.”
Patel said he eventually hopes that someday MSA will be provided with a cultural center comparable to the Freeman Center, in keeping with the University’s commitment to diversity,
“Because Muslims are very stigmatized in public discourse, we feel there should be an emphasis in the Duke community on accepting Muslims. [A center for Muslim cultural life] is sort of an embryonic idea,” Patel said. “We want to review internally about the feasibility of this project.”
MSA currently reserves the Multicultural Center for its Friday congregational prayer and the Women’s Center for its weekly meetings.
But even those spaces are becoming overcrowded and inadequate for the 30 to 40 students that come to these weekly MSA events, said sophomore Junaid Raja, Da’wah chair of MSA.