The Student Government Association (SGA) said that it is close to finding a new, more suitable space on campus for Muslim students to pray.
Aamna Aamir, a junior biology major and president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), said that Muslim students at Seton Hall have had complaints about the prayer space in Walsh Library provided by the University.
The main issue that many Muslim students have had about the space is its size – it’s too small for proper prayer.
“Typically when Muslims pray, they need a little bit of space,” Aamir said via email. “It’s difficult to perform the necessary steps, such as prostration, in a small area. This is greatly because prayer times are the same for everyone, so the chances of multiple kids being in the room at once was great.”
Muslims pray five times a day: before sunrise, after the sun passes the highest point in the sky, the late part of the afternoon, just after sunset and sometime between sunset and midnight.
Thaha Sherwani, a senior diplomacy major, said that the Walsh prayer space’s size is also an issue because it prevents students from praying together.
“The room in the library is okay for one person only,” Sherwani said. “You can’t pray with more than one person [in the room]. In Islam, when you pray with more people, God gives you more reward.”
Aamir also said that the space in the library is not technically just for prayer and that it is a multi-faith room. She said that “if such a small space is shared by many other people, it becomes less effective and more distracting for each faith coming in to pray.”
Dr. John Buschman, dean of University Libraries, said that the prayer space in Walsh Library is in room 362, a former scholar study room. Such rooms are available for graduate students and faculty and have a waiting list for use.
Buschman said the size of the room has not changed since he began working at Seton Hall in 2012 and that he reported the “heavy use” of the room to the SGA. Use of the room is recorded because students are required to check out a key for access.
Aamir said that the University granted Muslim students the use of another space, Duffy Hall room 83, which is bigger, but has “had a lot of logistical issues.” She said that the room remains a priority for classes, so if a class is allotted to that room during a time of prayer, Muslims students will have nowhere to go.
“We really have enough Muslims on campus to have a permanent room that we can set up and keep set up, at the very least on a year to year basis,” Aamir said. “We just want a room that we can set up and keep set up like the chapels they have in the dorms. However, we are just asking for [a room] somewhere on the campus, available all day, because prayer is from morning to evening. We also just need a place that is big enough for at least 10-15 people and can store our rugs and Qurans.”
Christina Simon, a sophomore English and psychology major and SGA secretary, said that she became aware of this issue at SGA’s Town Hall meeting on Jan. 23.
Simon said that about an hour after Town Hall ended, she walked around campus in search of a proper space for prayer for Muslim students.
According to Simon, Sebastian Derry, assistant dean for Public Services, attended the Town Hall and explained that Walsh Library could not offer an alternate room for Muslim students to use other than the one that the library was already providing.
“My adviser and I have been in contact with various campus departments, like HRL (Housing and Residence Life) and Campus Ministry since Town Hall,” Simon said via email. “We believe that we may have found the most suitable room, but we are waiting to hear from MSA to see if there is anything else that they are looking for.”
She said that she is hopeful that MSA and SGA can work together to find a proper prayer space within the next week or so.
“We have not yet looked at the room but I believe it is a classroom-size room, which would be a good space,” Aamir said. “They are giving us storage space as well. Although, currently, the location is still being worked out and is tentative, so nothing can really be confirmed. However, we do appreciate SGA helping us out by making another space possible.”
Ashley Turner can be reached at email@example.com.