Hands and arms, mouth and nose, face and head, ears, neck and feet. Washing each in succession, Muslim students prepare for their daily ablutions. They balance precariously upon the sink, flamingo-like, with one leg on the floor. These students are performing a sacred Muslim ritual – in the Bobst Library second floor bathroom.

In the Islamic faith, cleansing of the feet is required at the beginning of each of the five daily prayers, called Salah. The benefits received from Salah are multiplied when followers pray together, so spots like the second floor corridor in Bobst are frequented at specific times of the day by praying students. Because of the potential dangers of the sink-balancing act, some universities have begun installing footbaths. These universities hope that the new facilities will prevent student accidents.

“We haven’t received any student complaints on this issue,” university spokeswoman Kelly Franklin said in an e-mail, “but we are looking at it as part of our planning process as we look to meet the needs of all of our faith-based communities on campus, specifically in the new multifaith facility we are hoping to build on the Catholic Center site.”

Franklin is referencing the Thompson Street Catholic Center, which has an Islamic Center in the basement. The Islamic Center has raised a half million dollars in the hopes of building a new multifaith center.

Muslim Chaplain Khalid Latif insisted that the Muslim community has a pretty good relationship with the university as a whole, and he isn’t putting in a formal request for footbaths. But Princeton University, where Latif once worked, is installing footbaths and he recognizes the benefits of proper facilities. (MORE)


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