NY: FOR ISLAMIC STUDENTS, QUESTIONS ON PRAYER SPACE
The Islamic Center at NYU, currently located in the basement of the Catholic Center, has raised enough money to rent its own prayer and gathering space for the upcoming three years. Plans are being made to find a location in case the Thompson Center, which houses the Catholic Center, is sold to a developer.
The Archdiocese of New York owns the NYU Catholic Center building, which NYU leases. The archdiocese is in the process of selling the building, according to Islamic Center chaplain Khalid Latif. At last night's town hall meeting, NYU President John Sexton said the university is interested in purchasing it.
The Islamic Center currently rents the basement of the Thompson Center from NYU, and it serves as a prayer space and social center for Muslim students at NYU and in the local community.
Although NYU gives the center funds, the university says it cannot accommodate the club in one of its buildings. While other clubs meet regularly in the Kimmel Center, Kimmel doesn't have enough room for the club to have a permanent space where Muslims can pray five times a day, said Robert Butler, the director of the Office of Student Activities.
"It's a privilege to already have the basement in the Catholic Center," Butler said.
But students said they believe it is NYU's responsibility to provide a space for the center.
"The Muslim students aren't the only ones who benefit from the IC," CAS freshman Wally Omar said. "If the IC didn't have such a presence at NYU, we would all be a lot more ignorant about the world around us."
The Islamic Center is recognized as an All Square Club by the NYU student government. It receives $11,000 a year to fund events and, during the month of Ramadan, free dinners for students to break their fasts, which cost approximately $600 a night. But this is not enough to pay for prayer space.
Mission: Masjhid, the Islamic Center's fundraising effort, started in summer 2005 to help pay the rent at the Catholic Center. It was later turned into an effort to raise money for a permanent space.
"Students are motivated to help fundraising because of the idea of not having a long-term space," Latif said. "Students want people who come after them to have the same spiritual experience as they did."
Father John McGuire, the director of the Catholic campus ministry, confirmed in an e-mail that the building was being sold, but told WSN that "no one has placed a bid yet."
"IC members are just nervous and want to make sure they keep a prayer space," Father McGuire said.