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Conversations begin to address prayer space on campus

Duke student Yossra Hamid, a senior, kneels on her prayer rug in the Mosaic, a prayer room in Keohane dorm, on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. The room is open for prayer and meditation by students of all faiths. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

Boise State has begun to address an issue many Muslim students have been encountering recently: finding a place to pray privately and comfortably on campus.

Students from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait who are primarily of Muslim faith will usually pray about five times a day, according to sophomore finance major Ali Almutairi, who is originally from Kuwait. These students have run into a lot of barriers in reserving rooms for prayer and wish to create a single room for anyone, of any faith, to worship or have time to themselves. Boise State is now making efforts to work with these students to find a solution.

Since these international students come to the United States without any means of transportation, or familiarity with their new home, they are forced to remain on campus most of the time, according to Almutairi.

“Because (Saudi and Kuwaiti students) are international, they don’t have their family here—so they focus on Boise State as their home,” Almutairi said. “We don’t want to break the rules of Boise State, but they should be more flexible with us.”

Another student of Muslim faith, Wala Alzawad, is from Saudi Arabia. She is a senior pre-med and human biology major and is president of the Saudi Club.

“I told someone about an idea, that we have a room we reserve for any religion to practice their beliefs in—not just for Muslims,” Alzawad said. “Because if you give one group of students a room for a weekly meeting, (it’s right to) give other students a room for whatever they believe in.”

There are two mosques in Boise, but they are far away from campus and international students typically don’t have a vehicle, according to Alzawad. Therefore, these students have had a difficult time praying in between classes, and other commitments, without a dedicated space on campus.

Boise State President Bob Kustra recently became aware of this issue regarding prayer space on campus.

“What we need to do is find a permanent place where they can be guaranteed access no matter when—whenever they need it,” Kustra said.

Kustra said he has had meetings with some Saudi and Kuwaiti students over the last few years regarding academic issues, but the issue of prayer spaces was never addressed.

“I don’t know, as of this day, whether (campus services) has the solution, but I know the solution is one that’s been committed to the Saudi students and any other group of students who wants a private place to pray,” Kustra said.

Nicole Nimmons, executive director of Campus Services, looked into the issue once she found out about the concerns.

“I have pulled the room reservations for the last year, and it looks like we did everything in our power to meet their room requests,” Nimmons said.

According to Nimmons, a meeting has been set up with Saudi and Kuwaiti students to devote attention to this problem and room reservation procedures.

“It is my goal to meet with them and assist them on room reservations—as far out as a year—to secure a worship location consistent within the Student Union Building and find out any additional needs or wants that are not being met,” Nimmons said.

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