Students from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait make up a sizeable percentage of Boise State’s population. With this in mind, construction on the second floor of the Student Union Building (SUB) means that a permanent prayer space can be foreseen in the fiscal school year of 2020, according to Nicole Nimmons, the executive director of student services.
“There’s a lot of sensitivity in regards to space, in the fact that I just want to make sure that what I’ve identified right now is the correct location for this (prayer room),” Nimmons said. “It could change, because that’s what happens when we grow in different needs. But it is one of our focuses in the next year to really make that happen.”
Being intentional with their plans to remodel the second floor, Nimmons and her team have been working on the timing and placement of a permanent prayer room, expecting it to be completed by the fiscal year of 2020.
For the time being, rooms on the second floor of the SUB have been booked months in advance so that students can have congregational prayers. Francisco Salinas, the director of student diversity and inclusion, has worked in the past to advocate for having a permanent space that students can go to when the need arises.
“A few years ago, we had a dramatic influx of new students from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” Salinas said. (As) students joining our campus, part of their daily activity is finding a place to pray on campus, especially with the growth of the International Student Association and the Muslim Student Association. Through membership, we noticed an uptick in the need for this kind of a space.”
The Muslim Student Association (MSA) President Muhammad Kamrin Latif has been attending Boise State for five years, growing accustomed to finding places to pray. Latif has felt supported by Nimmons and her efforts to make sure students have spaces available and the equipment needed during a congregation for free
“As Muslims, you have to pray five times a day. So two to three prayers will be during school time,” Latif said. “Right now, I have seen people praying (in) whatever space they have. Probably finding space in a building where there’s a wall next to it, so they’ll just pray over there.”
The space will accommodate all religions and be a place for other non-religious students to take a step out of their busy lives and meditate. By having this space available, students will no longer have to question where they can go for undisturbed, spiritual time.
“I think whether it’s a prayer space, or a space that is designated for sort of multi-use that is sort of quiet reflective space, I think that there could be a lot of potential uses for a space designated as such,” Salinas said.
With student’s schedules, it is difficult to have time to find a place to pray. Unless it is a Friday group sermon that happens once a week, the prayer takes between five to ten minutes and is an individual activity.
“If someone knows where to go and pray, it definitely helps scheduling their day accordingly,” Latif said. “They did not have to look for spaces where they need to find a seperate corner in a building. If there is a place, they can easily go there.”
To celebrate Ramadan, around 800 people came to worship and pray in the Jordan ballrooms. During a normal Friday congregation, there is between 20 and 45 students who come together to pray.
In the past, the MSA has been removed from the priority list, but the mistake was quickly fixed to accommodate their needs, according to Salinas. However, it made it difficult for some students who could not drive off campus to a mosque.
“Whenever I find time I go to the mosque, but especially during Fridays, I’ve been praying at (Boise State) for probably the last two to three years,” Latif said. “We have never faced any problem in terms of segregating us between this religious group or other religious groups. So in that sense, we never felt like we were left out.”