By Jillian Baker
Muslim students reach out to KU in order to have an area to pray throughout the day on campus.
In the Islamic culture, it is mandatory for all Muslims to pray five times a day, including at first light, noon, mid-afternoon, sundown and last light. These prayers are very specific in the way they must be done including standing, bowing, raising hands to chest, kneeling, putting forehead on the ground and repeating the cycle.
The Muslim Students’ Association at KU is a student organization that acts as a haven for Muslim students. The group meets every Friday at 1:15 p.m. in the Multicultural Center, room 206. According to the president of the MSA, they have been collaborating with the Diversity Council of the Student Government Board.
There is no designated place for Muslim students to pray on campus. The lack of space leads to the students praying in between the book shelves or study rooms that are not occupied in the Rohrbach Library.
Shirin Toshkhujavea is a senior professional writing major at KU. Toshkhujavea is also the president of the Muslim Student Association. She is a born Muslim and practices Islam.
Toshkhkujavea stressed the importance of the daily five prayers. “Since Muslims have to pray five times a day and missing that is weighs heavily on person as if he missed a deadline for a paper, for example, it is a matter of maintaining spiritual well-being of Muslim community,” she said.
“In general, most of us feel like the campus does not have any proper accommodations for its Muslim community,” said Toshkhujavea. “That is to say it is important to establish a small area that is designated for mediation and prayers that anyone could use, not only Muslim. I think of a type of spiritual corner that welcomes all beliefs and disbeliefs, without having one particular faith group patronizing the place.”
Dr. Shively is a professor of anthropology at KU. She teaches religion in the Middle East, Islam and other religious practices. Shively has concentrated on the Middle East and Islamic religion since she received her Ph.D. in 1993. Shively is also a professor at the Respect Graduate School, which offers a master’s degree in Islamic studies.
Shively has reached out to former KU President, Dr. Cevallos. According to Shively, he said it wouldn’t be permitted because KU is public university. She said, “It would be interesting to ask our current president. To see what he has to say.”
Shively explained that some public high schools compensate for their Muslim students, but a public university will not. “By the time you are in high school, if you are a practicing Muslim, it is expected for you to pray,” she said. It is mandatory for all devout practicing Muslims to complete their prayers.
According to Toshkhujavea and Shively, the Muslim student community is not asking for their own separate and private prayer space. They both suggest an area for all students to reflect, meditate and practice any and all religions.