Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Muslim prayer room in Kay Spiritual Life Center renovated after students advocate for changes

Chaplain says renovations show that Muslim community is as important “as any other” religious group on campus

Muslim prayer room in Kay Spiritual Life Center renovated after students advocate for changes

AU Muslim Students Association meets for an event.

The Muslim prayer room in AU’s Kay Spiritual Life Center was renovated over winter break after Muslim students recommended that updates be made to the room, according to University Chaplain Mark Schaefer.

Schaefer, who spoke with AU’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) President Ammarah Rehman about having the room renovated, also thought that the room was due for renovations.

“We all understood that it was basically a converted utilitarian space,” he said. “We just asked them to tell us what it was that they were looking for.”

Schaefer said that the renovations demonstrated that “the Muslim community is as much a part of the Kay Spiritual Life Center community as any other.”

Kay Spiritual Life Center, which opened in 1965, “was built with very 1965 sensibilities in mind” and was “big enough for Protestants and Catholics and Jews to occupy and use the building,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer said that the prayer room had originally been converted from “what was essentially a storage space” in the 1970s after the population of Muslim students at AU began to grow. 

Some of the changes Rehman asked for included painting the walls, cleaning the rugs and getting a shoe rack, she told The Eagle. She said she spoke to Fanta Aw, the vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, about renovations. 

“She basically just told me that their office could pay for the renovations as long as we came up with a budget and a plan,” Rehman said. 

Rehman said that renovations, which took about two weeks, were completed over winter break since there were less students on campus. After seeing the updated prayer room, Rehman was happy with the result.

“It was really old and run down and wasn’t the nicest space to be a part of or be in and now it is,” she said. “Now it’s beautiful and has really nice lighting and is more inviting.”

AU Kogod Professor Ghiyath Nakshbendi, who is a volunteer Muslim Chaplain at Kay and the MSA’s faculty advisor, was also satisfied with the changes.

“It is just beautiful,” he said. “Nice carpets, nice chandelier and the walls were painted very nicely.”

Beyond the aesthetics, Nakshbendi said that the renovations held significance for Muslim students.

“Students go there during the day in order to do their prayers and they want to be in a place which will accommodate their needs” he said. “It is a special place for Muslims to take time out of their busy life, especially as a student, to reflect on things.”  

saustin@theeagleonline.com


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