It’s Friday afternoon, just after 1 p.m., and the Thompson Center
auditorium is packed. White sheets blanket the linoleum floor, and hundreds
of empty shoes sit by the door. A white barrier sits in the middle of the
room, dividing kneeling men and women praying quietly in Arabic while a
student leads them in a teaching.
For the past 25 years, the NYU Islamic Center has offered a spiritual base
to more than 200 practicing Muslim students who use the facilities for five
daily prayers, the weekly Jummah prayer held on Fridays and Iftar dinners
during Ramadan, where Muslim students broke their daily fast.
But in just a few months, this may become a thing of the past.
The Islamic Center’s lease for its Thompson Center location expires in
mid-May, and Muslim students are struggling to gather the funds necessary
to acquire a space of their own.
Since the center moved from the Loeb Student Center to the Thompson Center
seven years ago, NYU has paid for the lease on the space, which is owned by
the Archdiocese of New York, said CAS senior Mohammed Umar, the president
of the Muslim Student Association.
But two years ago, the Office of Student Affairs told Umar that to be fair
to other campus religious organizations, which are required to pay for
space from private funds – NYU would no longer subsidize the center’s rent.
“They said that they couldn’t pay for the prayer space anymore,” he said.
“The Bronfman Center [for Jewish Student Life] and the Catholic Center are
paid for by outside sources.”
Now, Umar is overseeing a massive fund-raising drive with a long-term goal
of collecting $10 million over six years to secure a permanent prayer and
community space for dinners and social activities in a separate building.
The money will also help pay for a full-time security guard, as well as
maintenance and upkeep fees for a permanent location.
With help from the NYU Office for University Development and Alumni
Relations, the center is reaching out to campus Muslims, and the local
Muslim community for financial support.