UC Removes Pews from Chapel to Accommodate Muslim Students

Administrators of the University of Chicago (UC) have permanently removed pews from an 88-year old campus chapel in order to accommodate Muslim students.

According to NPR affiliate WBEZ News, rows of pews were removed from the university’s Bond Chapel in order to provide Muslim students a place to pray. The pews were moved to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s Kovler Atrium and are now part of an art installation by UC Director of Arts and Public Life, Theaster Gates. Above the relocated pews hangs a large-scale double-cross sculpture filled with items such as umbrellas, dented cans, and wine glasses.

Entitled “13th Ballad,” Gates’ installation reportedly “intertwines concepts and theories... Here we see the relationship between religion, migration and accumulation.”

Campus Reform reports that an official description of the exhibit states, “The pews were recently removed from the chapel in order to offer Muslim students a place to pray, a symbolic gesture of religious tolerance.”

Susie Allen, a spokesperson for UC, confirmed through an email to Campus Reform on Friday that “the benches were removed... to make Bond Chapel a more appropriate comfortable space for its many uses: ceremonial, spiritual, and artistic.”

Allen said, however, that the main purpose for the pews’ removal was part of a broader renovation that would “accommodate the installation of a Baroque-style organ.”

Nevertheless, the UC Muslim Student Association (MSA) announced in its 2012-2013 edition of The Complete Muslims Guide to UChicago that Friday prayers would be held in the chapel once renovation was complete.

“Bond Chapel is where Friday prayers will be held once construction is over,” the Guide states.

“Insha’Allah, Jumuah prayer will be held in Bond Chapel every Friday this quarter,” reads another announcement on the MSA Chicago website, according to Campus Reform.

Photo credit: Rick Seidel/Flickr


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