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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Muslim Student Association deserves to have a permanent space to pray

The MSA have frequently had to use makeshift locations, like pictured above, for prayers on campus

One would think that the biggest organization of students on campus would have an arranged space for all of their meetings — especially if it’s a religious group of students. However, the Muslim Students Association at the University of Massachusetts Boston is having a very hard time finding a space to pray on campus.

According to the Student Activities Leadership website, an online source that keeps track of the student clubs on campus, the MSA has over 400 members. That figure makes the MSA the largest organization of students at the university, yet the group does not have a permanent space for prayers or meetings.

Board members of the Muslim Students Association are concerned by the fact that the MSA is treated solely like a student organization as opposed to being taken more seriously as a religious organization. Even the smallest groups, like Free The Children (which I personally lead), have the same conference room for every week’s meeting and usually get spaces for events without any problems.

The space that the MSA is using currently for prayers is at the Ryan Lounge, outside of the Interfaith Chapel. It is a very small area, designed for around 20 people but expected to fit more than 400 students. Although classes and demanding schedules add to the level of difficulty, Muslim students on campus take turns to perform their daily prayers on regular school days there; this is a sign of the amount of effort MSA students put into trying to cause the school as few difficulties as possible.

The so-called interfaith chapel is not doing its job when it comes having a space for more than one religion. The chapel is designed in a form of a church with many rows of pews, which is very inconvenient for the way Muslims pray. Muslims have to do Sajdah during the prayer. Sajdah is an Arabic word for kneeling down and placing your head and hands on the floor.

As one can imagine, this is extremely uncomfortable, if not impossible, for people to do between the rows of pews.

In addition, the weekly Friday prayer is one of the most important prayers in Islam. It is supposed to be done collectively in the mosque, but since most of the Muslim students cannot go to the mosque on Friday afternoons, they perform it together with their fellow Muslims students on campus.

Friday prayers cause the most frustration not only for the MSA members, who are supposed to prepare the given space for prayers, but for the entire Muslim community on campus. The MSA sends out emails to all the Muslims the night before or on Friday morning to let them know where the prayer will be held. But many times this semester the MSA has had to follow up that email with another email to apologize and inform members of a location change as a result of receiving last minute information that inhibits them from using the respective locations.

So, imagine receiving an email in the morning that tells you that the prayer will be held in McCormack, but once you get there, it’s just an empty space or there is some unrelated meeting of a different group going on. This is a very frustrating experience for a Muslim student who just wants to pray, as well as for MSA members who continually have to prepare new locations and send new emails.

In other universities in the Boston area, like Northeastern, the MSA is given a big empty room just for their use.

Sarrah Almomani, the vice-president of Muslim Students Association at UMass Boston, explains that MSA is not seeking any special treatment.  “We just want an empty room big enough for prayers, we don’t want any special accommodations.”