No prayer rooms available for students on campus
Muhammad Anta Kusuma, Clarion staff
May 8, 2012
Filed under News
Shimaa Mohamad is a 26-year-old international student from Egypt. She is Muslim and she wears a head scarf. She came to the United States last year under the State Department scholarship program. Madison College was chosen by her program as a place for her to study for two semesters.
Studying at an American school is a challenge for Muslim students. There are no statistics showing how many registered Muslim students are at MATC, and there are no student Muslim organizations on the campus. But almost every day, you can see Muslim students wearing scarves in campus as part of their identity.
Muslims are obligated to pray five times a day at a specific time. Mohamad said that in Egypt, there are at least two places for praying in every campus building. But you can’t find a special room for praying at Madison College.
For Muslims, they don’t have to pray in a mosque. They can pray anywhere. Mohamad prays several times on the campus. “But it is very difficult because I have to find empty class to pray,” she said.
Another Madison College student, Alexander DeYoung witnessed a praying activity last winter. “I was walking up the stairs to go to class, coffee in hand, and I turned the corner and there she was. The most delightful girl was bowing he head on her personal praying mat very quietly behind an open door,” he said.
“I’m not sure what my first impression was. I was not caught off guard.” However, after asking whether or not Madison College should provide a praying room for Muslim students, DeYoung said no.
Zeynab Ahmed, 17-year-old, Somali-American is also Muslim student here at the College. But she never had any experience praying at campus. “I don’t pray here, I just wait until I go home.” she answered when she was sitting alone in the shuttle bus that went to Truax. When she arrives home, she combined two praying times into one. In Islam, combining two prayer sessions is tolerated in special cases.
Every Friday, Ahmed goes to the Islamic Center near the UW-Madison campus to do a Friday prayer. Once a week, Muslim men are obligated to hold Friday prayers, but not for women. Some Muslim students who have class downtown usually go to Hamilton Place apartments, two blocks from campus, to do a Friday prayer in the backyard. There are more than 30 people who begin praying at 1 p.m. Most of them are students from Saudi Arabia who are taking English courses at Wisconsin English Language Institution (WESLI).
Gabriela Barazarte, a property manager of the apartment building, provides a place for Friday prayers. “We know how important it is for them to pray five times a day,” she said.
“And by giving them a space to gather in a big group at least once a week we feel like we help them feel not so far from home and also create a friendly environment that embraces all the cultures and religions.” Bazarte also said that students have to keep the area clean after they finish praying.
Asking about a prayer room on campus, Mohamad said that it would be good if Madison College could provide one. “I don’t know about the MATC policies about this.” she said. “But my religion is flexible with this if it is out of my control. So if I couldn’t find a place to pray, I can pray later. But it is better to pray on time.”
As for Ahmed, she doesn’t know how to request a praying room for the school. She just nodded her head when asked about a praying room. “It’s like violating the praying rule to go and pray at home.”